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Emergency departments are ideal places to screen patients for substance abuse, using SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) techniques. But for the patients to actually go to treatment, someone skilled in substance abuse counseling needs to be on site to provide the "warm handoff" from the emergency department (ED) to treatment, according to SBIRT experts.
"We need to create conduits of care, and they need to be immediate, streamlined and simple," said Stephen H. O'Neill, project director of the Georgia SBIRT program, called BASICS (Brief Assessment, Screening, Intervention Continuum of Care System). Formerly with the SBIRT program in Washington State, O'Neill is replicating that program in Georgia.
Under a five-year SBIRT grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Washington linked a substance abuse treatment agency to each of nine hospitals, O'Neill told ADAW. "We would buy a position in the treatment program," he said. That position was a certified chemical dependency counselor, employed by the program, who would come into the ED.
In some cases, the treatment program was located in the hospital, so the linkage was easier. When someone in ED needed …