UVM takes new approach to drug and alcohol abuse - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

UVM takes new approach to drug and alcohol abuse

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A daily checkup at the doctor's office could turn into a chance to get help with substance abuse.

The University of Vermont is taking a new approach to drug and alcohol abuse on campus.

Drug and alcohol use on college campuses across the United States is a battle that has been fought for years, but now, the University of Vermont hopes to catch substance abuse before it's too late with SBIRT, Screening Brief Intervention Referral to Treatment.

"This initiative attempts to do two things, it attempts to identify those issues for students and then really shorten the time between the identification of the issue and actually acting on it," said Jon Porter, Center for Health and Wellbeing director.

When students go to see a doctor on campus for any health issue, they'll now be asked a set of computerized questions to assess whether they struggle with alcohol and drugs.

"If students screen positive on those very brief ones, they'll be directed to a bit longer survey which may be 8-10 questions and if those are still turning up flags, that will come up in conversation with the clinician and the student," said Porter.

While the process will be confidential, some students have mixed feelings.

"Seems a little invasive but if its confidential like it should be, it will be interesting to see what students will do when they get asked," said Fred Torde, UVM junior.

"I don't know how much of an impact it would have, but in the specific case of a couple people's lives it might have some difference," said Andie Blaser, UVM junior.

Porter says it's all about identifying the problem early on and tackling drugs, like opiates before it's too late.

"We're around the national average for that which is about one percent of our students are struggling with that. If you look at nationally, high risk drinking rates, they're in the mid to upper 40s," said Porter.

"It’s a big situation, obviously so I think it's a good way to kind of open the floor, if someone needs to talk about it I think being asked is a good way," said Annie Wheeler, UVM senior.

SBIRT will be funded by grants through the Department of Health. The money will go toward upgrading computer systems and training behavioral health experts.

The University of Vermont is the first educational institute to implement SBIRT but they're one of five institutions that will be using the program to battle drugs and alcohol.

"It's a response in some ways to the issue we have in Vermont with opiates but it’s also a response to what we see students having trouble with on campus," said Porter.

It's an effort UVM hopes will begin the road to recovery.


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