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Grant for substance abuse intervention training renews as Huntington’s overdose rates lessen

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Marshall University is joining the fight against Huntington’s devastating substance abuse epidemic. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently awarded the university with a $315,000 continuation grant to provide SBIRT training (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) to healthcare professional students and community members. The funds are a continuation of a grant that has been issued in installments since 2015 and will continue until 2018, according to a press release.

It’s no secret that opioid abuse is an epidemic plaguing the city of Huntington. While drug addiction is a nationwide crisis, Huntington has become the epicenter of the disaster over recent years. However, the city has seen decreases in drug overdoses since 2015, the year the SBIRT grant, among other programs, were implemented to push back against substance abuse and addiction in its
various stages.

According to data collected by the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, the number of overdose deaths declined from 24 between January 1 and April 5 in 2015, the first quarter of the year, to 14 in the same time period in 2017.

The Health Department’s Harm Reduction Program is likely responsible in part for the decrease in deaths this year. The program is a needle exchange which allows addicts to exchange dirty needles for clean ones at the Health Department every Wednesday. It was implemented in September 2015.

Marshall University’s Wellness Center received the first installment of SBIRT grant funds in 2015 as well. SBIRT training is an evidence-based, early-intervention screening program for substance abuse used in hospitals nationally.

Amy Saunders, director of the Wellness Center at Marshall, was the principle investigator of the grant. She and several others submitted an application for the grant in 2015. According to Saunders, faculty in Marshall’s school of medicine, school of pharmacy, school of physical therapy; psychology, social work, and counseling departments; nursing, and public health programs were exposed to the SBIRT training in the fall of 2015 in order to implement it with students the following spring.

“Each department has one to two, sometimes more, faculty who are trained in it and are helping implement it, and then affect systematic change, spreading it in the community,” Saunders said.

“There are a lot of faculty who have infused this into their curriculum,”
Saunders said.

According to Saunders, health clinics in the area have begun implementing SBIRT training, which also screens for mental health issues.

The funding will end in 2018. However, Saunders is hopeful that the Marshall community will continue using and spreading the training beyond that.

Saunders said she hopes to see SBIRT training implemented with school counselors, hospital emergency rooms and doctor’s offices.

The Wellness Center will also pursue similar grants in the future in order to ensure SBIRT training continues after 2018. Saunders said they have looked into a program specific to screening women, which MU Health has already agreed to implement alongside the Wellness Center if they receive the grant in the future.

“We hope as it catches on, more people will start screening because it’s very effective, especially if you start early,” Saunders said.

Lydia Waybright can be contacted at [email protected]

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