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Elements of SBIRT

SBIRT is a strategy in the healthcare sector for reinforcing healthy behaviors, identifying problematic drug and alcohol use early, reducing substance misuse, and referring to treatment those who need it.  This evidence-based practice is a process with three main elements – Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment.

The term SBIRTScreening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment – represents the progressive steps that a health professional takes to assess alcohol and drug use behaviors and reduce risks to the individualʼs health and well being.

SBIRT: universal Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment, follow up.


Universal Screening
Universal Screening: Screening provides a means to identify the level of a patient’s use behavior, from no/low risk, to high-risk use. Screening responses provide an opportunity for a discussion about substance use as part of a healthcare visit.

Brief InterventionBrief Intervention: Positive screening should be followed by brief intervention (BI), with an aim to increase the patient’s motivation to abstain from substance use. However, BI often requires a harm reduction approach, with a goal of developing motivation to reduce, rather than to eliminate substance use.

Referral to TreatmentReferral to Treatment: This is a well-planning process of care coordination. During the process a healthcare professional provides an active referral to behavioral health resources for evaluation and diagnosis, and in some cases specialty treatment. It is critical that patients indicate a willingness / desire for such services during the brief intervention conversation.

Follow UpFollow Up: This is an essential component of the entire SBIRT process. Following up on a screening result, BI conversation, or referral to evaluation and/or treatment is crucial to on-going, whole health management with each patient.



Looking for Technical Assistance?

NH Center for Excellence - Addressing Alcohol and Drug Misuse in NHTechnical assistance for the NH Youth SBIRT Initiative is provided by the NH Center for Excellence. If you are interested in receiving TA for SBIRT implementation, please fill out a technical assistance request on the NH Center for Excellence website.

Please access our learning opportunity card for more information.