Indiana State University Newsroom

Sycamores taught how to recognize, intervene in substance abuse cases

March 2, 2017

A substance abuse training model is helping Indiana State University's social work, nursing and physician assistant students make a real-world impact.

The College of Health and Human Services received the Screening, Brief, Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) federal grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration two years ago. Now fully implemented, it trains social work, nursing and physician assistant students to screen for risky alcohol and drug use behaviors and provide intervention.

"It's a federal grant that looks at substance abuse and mental health issues," said Jennifer Todd, program director.

The grant provides future healthcare professionals with methods to locate and assess substance abuse in the early stages, provide intervention and make a treatment referral.

"It's not a treatment, it's to train new professionals in the field, and how to basically screen patients for harmful drinking and substance use," Todd said. "The basic premise is to take this grant, train these students that are going to work in your communities and use this prevention model."

The grant is being used in a variety of ways, from training, to coursework, to real-world approaches. State offers two classes to teach the SBIRT model - a one credit hour class and a substance abuse class. The classes are offered as electives and open to all majors but are also included in the social work and nursing major degree program.

"We've done curriculum in a few ways, depending on the department. We have looked at the courses within each program that could fit," Todd said. "For example, nursing has a psychiatric nursing class where the model was delivered in that class. The PA program is considered a clinical skill, so we included it into their clinical hours. In social work, we include it in the assessment and screening model."

Not only is the model being taught in the classroom, but also because of the grant funding, professionals in the community are being trained in this approach as well. Integrating the method into the professional field is beneficial to current facilities and to future practitioners.

"The best part, I think, is this idea that our students often go back and work in communities that have a lot of issues with alcohol and substance abuse," Todd said. "This model is one of the ways to equip our students with the tools to go and do a prevention approach."

Now, students are graduating with extra resources to be more impactful with the community.

"Oftentimes when people get to the point where they are dependent or addicted, we don't always have the resources. I like that our students are getting another tool before they leave to have a concrete intervention approach," Todd said.

The effects of the grant are also built to be long-lasting, so these courses and opportunities won't fade after the funding is finished. "(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) is asking us by year three to build something sustainable," Todd said. "So after the grant, we have to make sure the model is still being taught."

More than 400 students are expected to go through the training during the three-year program, and they complete surveys before and after the course.


Writer: Kayla Carmicheal, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or