With the help of an $870,000 grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, the College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst will be developing a program to train student nurses in screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT). SBIRT is a method for delivering early intervention and treatment to people with, or at risk of developing, alcohol and/or substance use disorders.

UMass Amherst’s project is one of 12 nationally funded projects by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. The grant will go toward addressing a growing need for medical care providers working across a variety of service delivery settings to be trained in SBIRT, and will boost the ongoing work of bringing evidence-based practice to substance abuse prevention and treatment.

The undergraduate training program in the UMass Amherst College of Nursing will build on a SAMHSA curriculum and be integrated this coming fall into existing psychiatric/mental health, pediatric/young adult, and community nursing courses that cover alcohol and substance use disorders. The training program, called “SBIRT: The Power of Nursing to Change Health,” will allow student nurses to apply these new skills in their community and medical/surgical rotations as part of a partnership with the Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center, the Center for Health Promotion, University Health Services, and the Springfield Public Schools.

UMass Amherst is optimistic about the approach of the new curriculum to teach behavior change, and believes in the program’s potential to impact the medical system and improve patient outcomes long term. Donna Zucker from the College of Nursing will serve as principal investigator to the project along with Sally Linowski, co-principal investigator and associate dean for Student Affairs and Campus Life. Implementing training curriculum along with a multi-disciplinary team from Nursing, Public Health, Student Affairs, and Campus Life, the three-year project will train up to 500 students in SBIRT techniques.

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