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Referrals to treatment

Some patients will require more assistance with their substance use than perhaps your clinic can offer. This is where a referral to brief treatment or substance use disorder treatment is useful.

When do I make a referral?

The patient's readiness for change will determine if you make a referral, or perhaps continue to meet with the patient to enhance their motivation for a referral.

Note: A referral does not mean that the patient will be enrolled in a treatment program, it means you are referring them for further assessment with a chemical dependency provider or other staff at a treatment facility. Be very clear with the patient what the referral means.

The patient and the chemical dependency provider will determine what next steps are appropriate for that patient based on the assessment.

How do I make a good referral?

To make good referrals make sure you:

  • Are familiar with available treatment options and resources in your area for substance use and mental health.
  • Have good relationships/contacts with local treatment agencies.
  • Obtain a release of information form from the patient so you are notified of the referral outcomes.
  • Make a plan for follow up with the patient and the referral agency after the referral appointment date.
  • Call the referral agency while you are with the patient and schedule the appointment.

Who qualifies for a referral?

  • Patients that score a 16-19 on the AUDIT and/or a 3-5 on the DAST qualify for a referral to brief treatment.
  • Patients that score a 20+ on the AUDIT and/or a 6+ on the DAST qualify for a referral to treatment.

Although a patient may only qualify for brief treatment based on the AUDIT or DAST score, they may still be ready to commit to substance use disorder treatment. If this happens, you should follow the patient's request. On the flip side, they may not be ready for any treatment services at all.

Meet your patient at their readiness levels. If a patient is not ready for treatment services offer to meet with them again. Focus your brief interventions on enhancing motivation for change or building motivation to seek further treatment.