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Screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT)

Screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) is a model for early intervention and treatment for people with — or at risk of developing — substance use disorders. Providers must be certified in the SBIRT model to implement this approach and offer SBIRT services. 

Are you interested in providing, supervising, or billing for SBIRT services? Become SBIRT certified.

Take the training

What is SBIRT?

SBIRT is a universal public health approach to integrate behavioral and primary health care. It is a way to increase awareness that substance abuse is preventable and that treatment works. SBIRT can be provided in a wide variety of medical and community health care settings. SBIRT:

  • Provides universal screening for substance use.
  • Detects risky or hazardous substance use that may lead to abuse or dependence.
  • Offers early intervention and timely referral and treatment for people who have substance use disorders.

Often substance use interventions happen after an individual is diagnosed as having a severe substance use disorder. SBIRT widens the focus from individuals with severe substance use disorders to include individuals who may be at risk of negative social and health consequences as a result of their substance use.

Providing SBIRT in a health care setting can:

  • Decrease the number of alcohol related emergency department visits and repeat hospitalizations.
  • Reduce physical, emotional, legal, financial, family, and professional consequences of substance use.
  • Improve service coordination for persons with substance use disorders.
  • Decrease the number of alcohol related injuries and deaths.

How does it work?

  1. Screenings are applied universally to identify people with mild to severe substance use disorders (SUD).
  2. Persons identified by an SBIRT screening are given a brief intervention (BI) by a medical professional.
    1. The BI addresses the individuals substance use and assists with establishing a plan to reduce use in the future.
  3. When indicated, patients are referred to specialty care for their SUD.

Connecting people with the right treatment

In addition to identifying and intervening with people who have mild SUDs, SBIRT also identifies individuals with moderate to severe SUDs and works to connect them to substance use treatment options.

SBIRT services also connect behavioral and primary health care to effectively meet the needs of individuals.

Is SBIRT effective?

Yes. Universal SBIRT can effectively reduce the severity of substance use disorders and improve health outcomes for patients. It will also decrease the risks of injury and negative life consequences, like DUIs or job loss.

SBIRT uses motivational interviewing to assist patients with making positive behavioral changes related to their alcohol or drug use.

How do I become SBIRT certified?

Completion of the seven-module Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment in Washington State course will meet the Health Care Authority's (HCA) three and a half-hour training requirements to be certified to submit billing and provide — or supervise individuals providing — SBIRT services.

Are there materials for my office?

Yes. You can download posters to hang in your clinic that normalize alcohol and drug screening and provide quick facts about alcohol, marijuana, and prescription opioid misuse.