Adolescent SBIRT

Helping social workers and nurses prevent adolescent substance use

Integrating Adolescent SBIRT Throughout Social Work & Nursing Education

With funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, this initiative encourages the infusion of adolescent screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) education into undergraduate and graduate curriculum by social work and nursing educators, field instructors and preceptors; and adoption of adolescent SBIRT by social work, nursing and other practitioners. Beginning in 2014, NORC at the University of Chicago partnered with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the Center for Clinical Social Work (CCSW), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), Institute for Research, Education, and Training in Addictions (IRETA), and Kognito to engage nursing and social work schools, and their accrediting bodies, in a learning collaborative to develop, evaluate, and disseminate interactive, competency-based substance use screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment curriculum. The project formed a Steering Committee of subject matter experts, educators, practitioners, and professional association representatives to provide guidance in all aspects of our work.

As a result of this collaboration, the project created the Adolescent SBIRT Instructor’s Toolkit, which features a Learner’s Guide to Adolescent SBIRT with companion slide decks and supplemental materials, and the web-based SBI with Adolescents virtual client/patient simulation program developed by simulation company Kognito. The simulation training combines the science of learning, the art of conversation, and the power of game technology to engage users in role-play conversations with virtual humans, allowing them to try different approaches, get personalized feedback, and gain the confidence and skills to have real-life conversations that result in measurable changes in social, emotional, and physical health.

As of May 2020, over 150 academic institutions have implemented the curriculum via one of our implementation tracks, resulting in over 6,500 individuals trained online using the SBI with Adolescents simulation and more than 11,000 trained in a classroom setting using the Learner’s Guide to Adolescent SBIRT curriculum (see map below). Moreover, the curriculum has been disseminated to more than 1,200 medical and behavioral health professionals working in community, school, primary care, hospital, criminal justice, workplace, and other settings.


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With continued funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, NORC will again partner with the Council on Social Work Education, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and Kognito to engage nursing and social work programs and practicing professionals. The overarching goal of this work is to increase the number of programs infusing curriculum, increase the number of practitioners trained to deliver adolescent SBIRT, and to support the implementation of adolescent SBIRT throughout communities. The key goals of the second phase of the project are as follows:

  • Expand the Adolescent SBIRT Instructor’s Toolkit beyond alcohol and marijuana to address opioid and other prescription medication misuse. The Toolkit will also include materials for professionals working with special populations including Hispanic/Latino youth, LGBTQ youth, and youth at increased risk for developing substance use concerns due to other risk factors (e.g., depression).

  • Train approximately 12,000 educators, students, field instructors, preceptors, and practitioners using the core curriculum.

  • Through the Learning Collaborative, provide technical assistance and training to support the infusion of the curriculum.

  • Engage at least 1,200 learners in our webinar series focused on special populations (e.g., vulnerable/at-risk youth, criminal justice involved youth, and LGBTQ youth) and special topics (e.g., adolescent opioid use and risk factors that increase risk of substance use).

  • NORC and our partnering institutions will assess program impacts on learner outcomes and practice uptake.

What is SBIRT?

SBIRT is a comprehensive, integrated, public health approach to the delivery of early intervention and treatment services for persons with risky and dependent alcohol use, treatment and ongoing recovery supports.

Screening quickly assesses for the presence of risky substance use, follows positive screens with further assessment of problem use, and identifies the appropriate level of treatment.

Brief intervention focuses on increasing insight and awareness regarding substance use and motivation toward behavioral change.

Referral to treatment provides those identified as needing more extensive treatment with access to medications, primary care counseling or specialty care as needed by the patient.