The Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is an evidence-based, 3-step early intervention screening tool to prevent substance use in youth ages 9-20.

Prevention Is Key (PIK) has secured a five-year SAMHSA grant that will establish an SBIRT program in up to ten middle and high schools in Morris County. PIK will train school-based professionals to administer SBIRT to 2,000 students county-wide over the five year period.

The project’s goal is to increase the capacity of student services to effectively and efficiently address alcohol/drug use, and mental health, which promotes school engagement and improves learning outcomes.

What is SBIRT?

SBIRT stands for Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment. SBIRT is the screening tool recommended by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the early identification and treatment of substance use.

Although originally designed as a universal prevention approach (Tier 1), SBIRT is readily adapted for delivery in middle and high school settings. SBIRT offers an efficient, evidence-based, and comprehensive service to address selected behavioral health concerns among adolescents (e.g., alcohol/other drug involvement).

The use of SBIRT allows school-based professionals to detect risk for substance use related problems, deploy brief intervention strategies to address these concerns at an early stage in youth, and if necessary, refer students for treatment.

What is Screening?

SBIRT begins with the administration of a standardized screening instrument, specifically the CRAFFT-II (Car, Relax, Alone, Forget, Friends, Trouble) instrument. The CRAFFT II screening takes approximately 3-5 minutes to administer and quickly ascertains a student’s level of risk for mental health, conduct problems, and substance use behaviors. There is no cost to administer CRAFFT-II.

What is Brief Intervention?

Brief Intervention (BI) is protocol-guided and utilizes motivational interviewing skills to explore and enhance a student’s internal motivations for change regarding a specific target behavior. BI comprises 2-4 sessions (approximately 15 minutes each) for students who show moderate-to-high risk results from screening. BI is an evidence-based practice for addressing adolescent alcohol/drug involvement and is a promising practice for addressing mental health and conduct problems in the school setting.

What is Referral to Treatment?

Referral to Treatment (RT) is for students who continue to display significant problem symptoms and who do not respond to the Brief Intervention. RT can be an internal referral for further school-based services or an external recommendation for community-based mental health or substance abuse assessment. The RT component of SBIRT develops and strengthens linkages between schools and community-based providers.

How are parents involved in school SBIRT?

Parents must give written consent for student participation in SBIRT. Parents also need to be notified of the general results of screening. If the student’s problem symptoms persist and SBIRT trained school staff suggest further services, parents will need to be involved in the next steps.