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NMSU receives $853,815 grant for integrated behavioral health training

The New Mexico State University School of Social Work in the College of Health and Social Services has received a three-year Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) Health Professionals Training grant, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).


SBIRT is an evidence-based practice used to recognize, decrease and avoid problematic use, abuse and dependence on alcohol and illicit drugs. The $853,815 grant will train graduate and undergraduate students in social work, counseling and nursing programs. Tina Hancock, director of the School of Social Work and principal investigator of the project, is working with the School of Nursing and the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology on the project?s integration.

?The idea of the grant is to teach students the SBIRT model. Ultimately we will increase the number of professionals in New Mexico who are able to identify and address substance abuse issues in an early intervention stage,? said Dawn Iglesias, senior program specialist for the grant. ?It really targets those professions that people are most likely to see.

?SBIRT provides an early intervention strategy to identify those who are engaged in harmful or risky alcohol and substance use and briefly intervene in about five to 10 minutes,? she said.

According to SAMHSA, there is growing evidence that SBIRT is an effective approach to address alcohol and substance use problems, leading to long-term health benefits. It enables healthcare professionals to systematically screen and assist people who may not be seeking help for a substance use problem, but whose drinking or drug use may cause or complicate their ability to successfully handle health, work or family issues.

New Mexico has a high need for SBIRT training. The state has high national averages for drug overdose death rates and alcohol-related deaths. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2013 only a small percentage of those in need of treatment for alcohol and substance abuse receive treatment in a specialty facility. SBIRT integrates behavioral health into the primary care setting.

?It?s a great opportunity to eliminate mental health stigma and also address the population that is at risk,? said Ana Moseley, project co-director. ?I think the impact of this teaching is going to be amazing for New Mexico.?

The collaborative effort will train students by adding the SBIRT model into each discipline?s current curriculum. Undergraduate students in social work and nursing; graduate students in social work and counseling and guidance; and doctoral students in counseling psychology and nursing practice will receive the training in SBIRT skill development. Community trainings in the SBIRT curriculum also will be offered to local health professionals.

?Students entering into the medical professional community after graduation will have been exposed to the SBIRT model, and will hopefully be favorable to utilizing SBIRT when they get out to the practice community,? Iglesias said. ?It?s getting students hands-on practice, role-play, and simulated experience and hopefully engaging community partners to allow our interns to practice SBIRT in their agencies.?

Project organizers are working with faculty to introduce SBIRT into the core curriculum and hope to begin some student training in spring 2015 graduate courses. SBIRT will be fully incorporated into graduate course work by fall 2015 and undergraduate courses in fall 2016.

Project organizers hope to train more than 150 students during the three-year period. The project?s model also focuses on sustainability so that even when the grant ends the student training will continue.

?This spring the main focus will be on training our faculty, field instructors, clinical supervisors, and those who work with our students,? Iglesias said. ?This will ensure that our community partners are well aware of the SBIRT model and they are able to use it to bolster student training experiences.?