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National Council addresses low SBIRT adoption in primary care

March 26, 2018
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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Screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) has been used by behavioral healthcare providers for years. A new guide released last week by the National Council for Behavioral Health aims to increase SBIRT adoption among primary care clinicians as well.

With funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Council embarked on a project to identify why SBIRT adoption among primary care providers has been sporadic and shown mixed results. Among the findings: Widespread adoption has stalled, in large part, because of a lack of clear, consistent implementation guidelines.

To that end, the National Council convened a panel of experts from across the field to create a guide for primary care. “Implementing Care for Alcohol and Other Drug Use in Medical Settings: An Extension of SBIRT” is a step-by-step guide to assessing alcohol and other drug use as part of standard practice. The 59-page document, which outlines nine necessary clinical and operational changes to implement, can be used by any primary care organization or office.

“Efforts to integrate care for common behavioral healthcare conditions into primary care are increasing, but often neglect management of alcohol, opioid and other drug use disorders,” Katharine Bradley, panel chair and senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, tells Behavioral Healthcare Executive in an email. “This guide—developed by experts in addressing addictions in primary care—is intended to support primary care practices wanting to address the entire spectrum of alcohol and other drug use as part of behavioral health integration.”

Bradley noted in the news release announcing the guide that substance use disorders (SUD) historically have been managed outside healthcare systems in the United States, but there is now a shift toward identifying and managing SUDs in medical settings, starting with primary care. The new guide produced by the National Council and its panel is intended to help primary care providers deliver coordinated, comprehensive care and improve outcomes for patients with SUDs.


The National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit is the largest national collaboration of professionals from local, state, and federal agencies, business, academia, clinicians, treatment providers, counselors, educators, state and national leaders, and advocates impacted by prescription drug abuse and heroin use.

April 2-5, 2018 | Atlanta, GA