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Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is a public health approach to the delivery of early intervention and treatment services for individuals with or at risk for substance use disorders. SBIRT includes the following components:

  • Screening assesses the existence and severity of substance use and identifies the appropriate treatment.
  • Brief intervention focuses on increasing insight and awareness regarding substance use and motivation toward behavioral change.
  • Referral to treatment provides those identified as needing more extensive treatment with access to specialty care.

SBIRT can be conducted in primary care offices, emergency departments, schools, and other community settings.

In 2016, Massachusetts passed legislation that required SBIRT protocols be implemented for all public school students during two grade levels. Most schools select one middle school grade and one high school grade. Specific funds were allocated to help train school personnel in administering the training to students. The MASBIRT Training and Technical Assistance Center provides resources and support for schools implementing SBIRT. A toolkit for clinicians provides additional support for healthcare providers.

SBIRT uses Motivational Interviewing techniques, which have been demonstrated to be effective in identifying and reducing substance use. Motivational interviewing is a counseling method that helps people resolve ambivalent feelings and find internal motivation for positive changes in their lives.