The $9.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide early intervention and treatment for adults struggling with alcohol and drug abuse.
“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for Vermont,” said Jacqueline Corbally, chief of treatment services. “It’s bringing the physical and mental health providers together.”
The Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral and Treatment (SBIRT) program will run through 2018 and aims to reach 95,000 Vermonters, 18,000 in the first year.The money will be used to provide health centers and clinics with training on how to screen substance abusers at an early stage said Win Turner, a clinical psychologist and the program’s director.
The grant will benefit patients seeking medical care at public health centers, among them the Clinics for the Uninsured and Satellite Primary Care Clinics.
Turner says the program will target adults who have low incomes, fewer educational opportunities and who come from diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds.
This group is less likely to seek help for substance abuse, Corbally said.
Previously, substance abuse treatment resources have been spent on the 4 percent to 6 percent of Vermonters who are already using or are dependent on substances. The new program will focus on the 25 percent of adults who have just started abusing substances, Turner said.
The secondary target group is young adults aged 18-25 who tend to have a higher rate of abuse of alcohol and other drugs, Turner said.
Among young adults 18 to 25, national data place Vermont among the highest or one of the five-highest states with a prevalent alcohol use, 74 percent; binge drinking, 51 percent; marijuana use, 33 percent; and illicit drug use other than marijuana, 11 percent, according to 2010 data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Vermont has previously applied for, but never received, the grant before. Corbally said the funding comes at a time when Vermont is already “leading the nation on health reform.”
“When you look at all the work the state is doing with health reform, it makes sense to give SBIRT to Vermont,” she said.
Health commissioner Harry Chen and Gov. Peter Shumlin announced the grant in a news release on Monday.
“This $10 million grant will allow my administration to continue its focus on preventing and reducing addiction, as well as fighting the crime linked to addiction that tears communities apart,” Shumlin said in the news release. “The timing of the federal support couldn’t be better.”
Vermont is one of five states to receive the 2013 grant. The others are New Mexico, South California, Ohio and New York. Since 2003, grant has funded 15 state co-operative projects, according to the program’s website.
Corbally’s hope is that the grant will make screening for substance abuse a standard part of health care visits.
“This is something you will be addressed on just as blood pressure,” she said.