July 16, 2015
BOSTON — About 60 people gathered Thursday morning for the launch of the Addiction Free Futures project, which aims to address drug addiction by expanding access to prevention and early intervention programs for teens.
“The earlier we can get to kids, the better off the trajectory is for that child,” Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children CEO Mary McGeown said. “If we can help delay that first drink or that first use of marijuana, we know it makes a real difference in that kid’s life.”
The Addiction Free Futures project is pressing for passage of a bill (H 1796) that would add SBIRT — Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment — to the list of health screenings conducted in public schools.
The bill calls for screenings “at least once annually in grades 8 or 9, and 11.”
The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee will hear testimony on the bill Thursday afternoon.
Advocates said SBIRT is “an evidence-based and cost-effective set of tools that helps identify alcohol or drug use and guides follow-up counseling and treatment if a problem exists.”
The screening consists of a short questionnaire to assess the patient’s risk of using drugs or alcohol in an unhealthy way, the intervention portion consists of “non-judgemental” conversations about substance use and options for change, and the referral typically involves providing information about services like Alcoholics Anonymous, according to the Department of Public Health Bureau of Substance Abuse Services