East Tennessee State University is one of the recipients of a statewide multi-million dollar grant aimed at reducing substance abuse.
Dr. Michael Floyd, a professor and clinical psychologist in the department of family medicine and principal investigator for ETSU on the grant, said the school will receive $1.7 million of an $8.3 million pot to help identify patients and communicate to them they may be risking their health by the way they use alcohol or other drugs.
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health is managing the grant, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“It’s a systemized way of screening for people who might be at risk of having health problems as a result of their alcohol or other drug use,” Floyd said. “It’s more focusing on people who may be misusing alcohol or other drugs ... and helping them make lifestyle changes.”
This means ETSU’s health care professionals and medical residents will have opportunities to learn how to use a process known as screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT).
According to a news release from ETSU, the program will be installed first at ETSU Family Physicians of Bristol, followed by family medicine clinics in Johnson City and Kingsport in successive years. The project also will provide community-based SBIRT services for members of the Tennessee National Guard, identified by TDMH as a population at high risk for alcohol misuse and abuse.
If patients are identified who may actually have a serious substance abuse problem, the grant allows for treatment to help end the abuse and maintain sobriety.
But the grant’s focus is to get patients to change their behaviors through friendly encouragement.
“What you want to do is enhance your relationship with your patients and help patients recognize the relationship is key to making lifestyle changes, and encourage patients to make those changes without intimidation or domination,” Floyd said.
Many people may not even realize their lifestyles put them at a higher risk for health complications, Floyd said, which is why the training this grant offers doctors is so important.
“Most people are not aware that having more than a couple of alcoholic drinks for a man over the course of a week puts them at risk,” Floyd said.
Most people take a doctor’s advice to heart, Floyd said, and will make positive changes if told of the necessity to do so.
In fact, research has shown, Floyd said, that two brief 15 minute or less counseling sessions regarding alcohol use resulted in a change in behavior and a correlating decrease in the number of emergency room visits.
“A little bit goes a long way,” Floyd said.
According to ETSU, Tennessee was one of nine states awarded the SBIRT grant, which is partly supported by the Affordable Care Act. ETSU will receive $1.7 million in funding over five years, with Meharry Medical School and Nashville-based Centerstone Research Institute sharing in the grant as partners.