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Drew Lovejoy

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Start from the Beginning: SBIRT Comes to West Virginia

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January 14, 2018, marked a sea change opportunity for health providers in West Virginia. Under the newly granted Section 1115 Medicaid waiver, health care organizations can now provide Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) services and receive payment from Medicaid. In West Virginia, 29 percent of residents are covered by Medicaid and with this new allowance, these residents are eligible to receive SBIRT services. West Virginians received 97 prescriptions for opioids per 100 residents in 2016, which puts them at a higher risk for developing an opioid use disorder.

With the highest overdose rate of any state in the nation, SBIRT has the potential to help West Virginia providers stem the tide by systematically screening and addressing use before it becomes a problem. By implementing SBIRT, a proven framework, providers have a real chance to make a difference by identifying risky substance use, preventing that usage from developing into a disorder and referring people to treatment when a disorder is detected. Validated screening tools used in SBIRT look at the range of use and make it easier for clinicians to objectively engage patients in a collaborative discussion of their use in the context of health.

West Virginia providers who take advantage of the new SBIRT coverage will also be taking a step toward physical and behavioral health care integration. As part of the Referral to Treatment step, primary care providers and substance use treatment providers coordinate care more closely by engaging patients in whole health services and support. Including substance use as part of person-centered care and establishing partnerships with other providers who deliver treatment services can create more efficient and effective care.

West Virginia has high rates of both teen pregnancy and substance use, and the expanded coverage already has proponents in West Virginia hospitals. Jill Ennis, a clinical obstetrics coordinator in South Charleston, says she hopes to see a decrease in the number of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome once SBIRT becomes widely adopted and more pregnant women are identified as at-risk and successfully linked to treatment. If SBIRT is widely adopted, the state could potentially lower these rates and have a positive impact on the infant population.

Now that Medicaid in the Mountain State covers SBIRT services, clinicians have the green light to implement a prevention and early intervention framework to more systematically identify and address the continuum of substance use. As part of the National Council’s commitment to support organizations’ efforts to provide comprehensive, high-quality care we have helped numerous organizations successfully implement SBIRT. Read more to learn about bringing SBIRT to your organization.

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