Five Indiana health centers join initiative to combat alcohol and substance abuse

  • May 21, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Staff from the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University Bloomington have begun working with five health centers in Indiana to implement a new procedure to evaluate all adult patients for risks associated with alcohol and substance use.

The centers are preparing to implement a strategy known as screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment, or SBIRT, into their standard primary care. The approach has shown promise for addressing excessive drinking, which studies have shown to be a growing problem in Indiana and across the U.S.

"Addressing this concern is a team effort," said Mallori DeSalle, SBIRT outreach coordinator and research associate at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center. "We are working to decrease hazardous drinking by bringing public health strategies to strengthen prevention, which builds a more holistic approach to health care."

The five Indiana centers are Boone County Community Clinic in Lebanon, Foundations Family Medicine in Austin, Greene County Health in Worthington, IU Health Ball-Family Medicine Residency in Muncie and WindRose Health Network Inc. Countyline Center in Indianapolis.

Over the next 18 months, each will receive $55,000 in seed funding as well as support from the Indiana Prevention Resource Center to assist in implementing SBIRT into adult primary care services. They are joining 17 other health care centers in Indiana to expand SBIRT services to reach diverse communities.

SBIRT aims to assess the level of alcohol or drug use and effectively identify patients who may benefit from a short conversation about their behavior. This brief discussion within a doctor’s appointment can help improve health while also addressing behavioral health issues like substance use.

"We hope that SBIRT will enable us to better understand the integration between primary care and behavioral health, so that we are able to better serve our community members and offer them the high quality care they deserve," said Cara Gambill of Greene County Health.

The initiative comes as harmful drinking is on the rise across the country and concern about it is growing in Indiana. Data published last month in the American Journal of Public Health indicated there has been a 9 percent national increase in heavy drinking since 2005. In Indiana, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly one in four Hoosiers reported binge-drinking within the past month.

Binge-drinking is defined as having five or more drinks in two hours for a man, or four or more for a woman. Heavy drinking behaviors and illicit substance use increase risk for preventable health concerns, yet health centers rarely evaluate each patient’s level of use on a regular basis.

DeSalle said the ultimate goal is that every community health center integrates SBIRT into its standard of care, bringing together the efforts of prevention and health care professions.

"Alcohol and drug prevention haven’t always been a regular part of a health care visit," she said. "But there are evidence-based ways to discuss alcohol and drug use in a doctor’s visit that work. With the majority of Hoosiers visiting their doctor at least once per year, primary care is an ideal opportunity to discuss health behaviors that may impact a patient’s overall health."

Research has indicated SBIRT can be highly effective at reducing harmful drinking and illicit drug use. Preliminary data indicate that patients exhibiting hazardous, harmful or dependent alcohol use who received services from the Indiana SBIRT program reported a lower severity of alcohol misuse 12 months after receiving services, said Jon Agley, SBIRT evaluator and assistant research scientist at the Indiana Prevention Resource center.

"Adopting SBIRT will serve as a catalyst to screen for other behavioral health concerns as well," said Linda Daniel of IU Health Ball-Family Medicine Residency. "We hope to initiate more effective screening of social circumstances and mental health disorders that significantly contribute to the risk of substance misuse."

"We are looking forward to being on the forefront of being able to help screen and educate our patients, and the SBIRT grant will help us in this goal," added Jeanni McCarty of Foundations Family Medicine.

Todd Jones of Boone County Community Clinic said his community, like many others, sees a growing need for the services. "Our hope is that we will show positive outcomes for those patients participating and strengthen our position in the community, providing needed services to the vulnerable population," he said.

About Indiana SBIRT

Indiana SBIRT is a statewide prevention initiative led by the Indiana Prevention Resource Center under a contract with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Division of Mental Health and Addiction. It is funded through a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Since 2012, the Indiana SBIRT team has been working toward the expansion of SBIRT services to reach all regions of the state, having an impact on a variety of diverse communities. SBIRT services are now available in all four corners of the state, as well as throughout Central Indiana.

About the Indiana Prevention Resource Center

The Indiana Prevention Resource Center is funded, in part, by a contract with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Division of Mental Health and Addiction, financially supported through U.S. Health and Human Services Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program. The center is operated by the Department of Applied Health Science at Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington. It is affiliated with the school’s Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior.

About the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington

The IU School of Public Health-Bloomington is reimagining public health through a comprehensive approach that enhances and expands disease prevention and reshapes how parks, tourism, sports, leisure activities, physical activity and nutrition impact and enhance wellness. Unique in the nation, the school’s multidisciplinary approach, history of community engagement and emerging strengths in epidemiology, biostatistics and environmental health bring new vigor and energy to the traditional concept of a school of public health. With nearly 3,000 students in an array of undergraduate and advanced degree programs and more than 130 faculty in five academic departments, faculty and students conduct research, learn, teach and engage with communities across a broad spectrum of health, wellness and disease-prevention topics.

Related Links

Greene County Health clinic in Worthington, Ind.

Greene County Health clinic in Worthington, Ind.

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Media Contacts

Steve Hinnefeld

Mallori DeSalle

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