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Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment in Schools

Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment in Schools

What is Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)?

SBIRT is an evidence-based intervention designed to address substance use through screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment.  The brief intervention, which is typically the lengthier portion of this 10 to 30-minute intervention, focuses on substance reduction goals. Additional time may be necessary when counseling or treatment center referrals are needed.

Who can do SBIRT?

Most health and social service professionals, such as school social workers can deliver SBIRT.  This intervention is designed to be utilized by those who are not substance use experts. School social workers see many students with potential substance use problems and can make an impact with SBIRT. This intervention is adaptable to most settings, including the school setting.

Why do SBIRT?

SBIRT is used to assist vulnerable populations who otherwise may “fall through the cracks.” With only 10% of the substance using population receiving substance use treatment, most receive no education on healthy limits or behaviors.  

SBIRT in the school setting

School personnel, including social workers, counselors and nurses have unique access to students and their substance using habits. Stewart, Felleman and Agar (2015) found substantial reductions in substance use among high school students who received an eight-week school based intervention using Motivational Interviewing, much as SBIRT does. The knowledge of the effect school based interventions has increased across the nation. The awareness has triggered some states to generate mandates maintaining students will receive education on substance use. Some states, such as Massachusetts have taken this even further to requiring SBIRT for their districts (MASBIRT).

For additional training on SBIRT

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s School of Social Work offers CEU training events. This is funded by a grant from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. For more information: or email [email protected].


MASBIRT TTA/Boston Medical Center. (2016). SBIRT in Schools. Retrieved from:

Stewart, D. G., Felleman, B. I. & Arger, C. A. (2015). Effectiveness of Motivational Incentives for Adolescent Marijuana Users in a School-Based Intervention. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 58, 43-50.

This post was guest written by Dr. Lori Egizio, Visiting Training Coordinator at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.  For more information, please contact her at [email protected]

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