A Virginia Tech team led by Nancy Brossoie, senior research associate at the Center for Gerontology, has been awarded a $945,000 grant to provide substance-misuse treatment training to students in undergraduate and graduate health professions in Southwest Virginia.

The three-year award from the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration will be used to integrate the SBIRT model – screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment - into the curriculum of nursing and counselor education students at Virginia Tech, Radford University, and Jefferson College of Health Sciences; and medical-resident rotations in psychiatry, family medicine, internal medicine, and emergency medicine at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

SBIRT is a best practice approach to identify, reduce and prevent problematic use, abuse and dependence on alcohol and illicit drugs within care settings.

“SBIRT interventions offered within an office setting have been shown to help individuals of all ages reduce their use of alcohol and drugs when more intensive treatments, such as 30-day rehabilitation, are not needed,” Brossoie said. “Research shows that, for every dollar spent using the SBIRT approach, $3 to $5 in savings can be realized in long-term healthcare costs.”

Brossoie’s Virginia Tech colleagues in the project are Fred Piercy, professor of family therapy in the Department of Human Development; Gerard Lawson, an associate professor, Laura Welfare, an associate professor, and Laura Farmer, an assistant professor  in the counselor education program, part of the School of Education.

Using a core curriculum provided by Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, Lawson and Piercy will lead the team in adapting the materials to align with course curriculum and field training opportunities in each discipline.

“The team will also tap the expertise of an advisory board of 17 community professionals, who represent a variety of population groups including the homeless, youth, pregnant women and older adults, so that the curriculum developed is sensitive to the people and cultures within this region,” noted Brossoie.

“This collaborative interdisciplinary project within Virginia Tech and across area institutions will change the kind and caliber of training that we are able to provide to students preparing to enter a range of health and care professions across Southwest Virginia. Our students will be well positioned to bring their expertise back to communities across the region,” said Elizabeth Spiller, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Over the three year project, the SBIRT approach training is expected to be taught to 840 counseling and nursing students and 90 medical residents, with continuing education opportunities available to over 200 healthcare professionals and teaching faculty in the region. 

Brossoie and her team received technical support for developing and preparing the grant proposal from the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment.

The Center for Gerontology serves as the organizational unit and focal point for aging-related activities at Virginia Tech. The Center conducts and supports research that addresses the health and wellbeing of older adults and their families and provides research-based educational resources for faculty, students and community agencies and organizations that concern themselves with research or services to the older population.



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