Gov. Peter Shumlin and Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD recently announced the implementation of a nearly $10 million federal grant to expand early intervention and treatment for adults who are at risk for addiction. The grant will fund a five-year project to launch screening, brief intervention, referral and treatment as part of regular health care practice for patients age 18 and older.
“We want to make screening for substance abuse a routine part of health care, just like screening for high blood pressure or cholesterol,” Gov. Shumlin said. “Helping people prevent addiction saves health care costs and creates better outcomes for individuals. But it also prevents the social problems that too often come with addiction, ensuring we have safer communities, a more productive workforce, and a healthier economy.”
The $9.9 million grant was received last summer from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Vermont is one of only five states selected, including New York, South Carolina, Ohio and New Mexico.
This grant will benefit adults who are at risk for substance abuse, especially those who are between the ages of 18 and 25, are low income, have less formal education, and are less likely to seek help for substance abuse. The effort will help fill an unmet need of an estimated 18,000 Vermonters each year who may not otherwise have received this help.
Through the grant, health care providers will be trained to recognize and act early on warning signs of substance abuse, before it becomes a lifelong addiction.
“Besides providing effective treatment for people who are addicted, we must help care providers step in early with those who are beginning to have problems due to alcohol or drugs,” said Dr. Chen. “This puts Vermont on the right path in preventing young adults especially from becoming lifelong addicts.”
To date, most of the treatment resources in Vermont have been spent on the 4 to 6 percent of adults who already have addiction problems. The focus of this grant is on the 25 percent of adults who have just started abusing alcohol or drugs. Among young adults in this age range, Vermont has one of the highest rates in the country of alcohol use, binge drinking, marijuana use, and other illicit drug use, according to SAMHSA data.
The 10 provider sites will implement the screening, brief intervention, referral and treatment project, known as SBIRT, that is at the core of the grant, with the goal of reaching about 90,000 Vermonters by 2018. Through the grant, the Community Health Center of Burlington will begin implementing the program in the next few weeks, one of 10 provider practices that are participating. These practices are ‘spokes’ that are part of the statewide Care Alliance for Opioid Addiction Hub & Spoke treatment model.
The Community Health Center serves a low income, underserved, diverse population that would not otherwise have access to behavioral health services such as this.
Six other providers are scheduled to start this year:
- The Health Center, Plainfield
- Northern Tier Center for Health
- Rutland Free Clinic
- Bennington Free Clinic
- People’s Health and Wellness Clinic, Barre
- Central Vermont Medical Center Emergency Department
Three other providers plan to start in later years:
- Little Rivers Health Care
- Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley
- University of Vermont Student Health Center