Investigators at the University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Behavioral Health Research and Services Center (UAA CBHRS) recently received a three-year $943,000 federal grant to implement a training program for students in the health professional programs to conduct routine substance and alcohol abuse screening with their patients.
UAA is one of 14 universities/medical residency programs selected to receive the grant funds administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The other grantees are located in California, Colorado, Florida, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin.
A recent study conducted by the State of Alaska implicated substance abuse, including alcohol, tobacco and use of illegal drugs, as causal or contributing factors in nine out the 10 top causes of death. Alcohol misuse is the third leading cause of death in Alaska. In 2010 the costs of substance abuse to Alaska’s economy totaled $1.2 billion. Research has also shown that many people are not being asked by their care providers about their alcohol use, even when it could have a significant impact on their health.
The ultimate goal of the SAMHSA program is for substance and alcohol abuse screening and intervention to become a routine part of health care, just like screening for high blood pressure or cholesterol. Preparing the workforce of the future to proactively identify and address this issue is an important step, aimed at the prevention of alcohol-related diseases and alcohol misuse.
The project, called Arctic-SBIRT (which stands for Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment), is a collaboration among campus partners representing UAA’s diverse health professions. The three-year pilot includes the Department of Psychology, School of Nursing, School of Social Work, and the Alaska Family Medicine Residency program, with potential to spread to other programs.
The project kicked off at the beginning of the 2014 spring semester, with plans to train approximately 300 UAA students and medical residents in each year of the grant.