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Wolf Administration Visits Primary Care Facilities Integrating Early Detection Screenings for Substance Use Disorder

Altoona, PA - Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Jennifer Smith today visited Blair County’s Altoona Family Physicians and UPMC Pregnancy Care Clinic to learn more about how they are integrating and enhancing drug and alcohol screening for individuals they serve in primary care settings.

The two facilities are recipients of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) grant. Since 2016, DDAP has distributed approximately $4.5 million in federal funding to four locations across the commonwealth to train clinical staff on the SBIRT practice. Other grant recipients include EMPOWER3 Center for Health in Blair County and Sharon Medical Group located in Mercer County.

“The work of Blair County’s Altoona Family Physicians and UPMC Pregnancy Care Clinic are critical in ensuring individuals who are at-risk of developing a substance use disorder are receiving necessary, preventative care to keep them healthy and safe,” said Secretary Smith. “We know that substance use disorder does not discriminate based on age, race, or socio-economic status and can often go undetected. These screenings are critical for integrating and educating clinicians on early identifiers that allow them to provide appropriate care and interventions to their patients.”

SBIRT is an evidence-based practice used by health care professionals to identify, reduce, and prevent substance use disorders. Nationally, participating clinical sites include primary care centers, hospital emergency rooms, and trauma centers. By providing early intervention screenings, clinicians are able to:

  • Quickly assess the severity of substance use and identify the appropriate level of treatment;
  • Provide feedback and advise to those showing at-risk behaviors; and
  • Provide referral to treatment for those in need.

Through the practice, the participating grant recipient sites have administered more than 27,000 screens, helped address at-risk behaviors in approximately 2,000 patients, and referred more than 400 individuals directly to treatment.

“The stigma associated with substance use disorder is an unfortunate reality that individuals fear when considering entering treatment,” said Smith. “By clinicians professionally administering these evidence-based screenings, we are able to capture a population of individuals who may not otherwise seek treatment or understand the course of their continued at-risk behaviors.”

Individuals seeking recovery resources for themselves or a loved one can call the toll-free PA Get Help Now helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). A live chat option is also available online or via text message at 717-216-0905 for those seeking help who may not be comfortable speaking to a helpline operator.

For more information on SAMHSA’s SBIRT grant, click here.

Find more information on the state’s efforts to battle the opioid crisis here.

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