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Substance screenings now standard


We are making substance use screenings a standard and regular part of our care. They are strengthening our client relationships and better positioning us to provide them with high-quality, whole-person care. They are a case study here at Health Care for the Homeless in performance improvement.

In April, 2015, Health Care for the Homeless providers began administering a substance use screening process called SBIRT to clients. This is a simple set of questions that identifies people who might be abusing alcohol or drugs and offers opportunities for an intervention. This screening process presents a huge—and important—opportunity in our work with people experiencing homelessness:

It can be administered by almost any health care professional; at Health Care for the Homeless, our medical, mental health, case management, housing and outreach providers all use the SBIRTscreen with clients.

It creates the opening for providers and clients to have difficult conversations about substance use, a topic many find uncomfortable.

By the end of 2015, 79% of eligible clients were receiving the SBIRT screen each month, a number that far exceeds the rates at most other health centers in the Mid-Atlantic.

Our goal in 2016 is to continue to improve our screenings for substance use and ensure that all our lients receive help when they need it.

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