Across the country, more people are dying from drug overdoses than car accidents. We read about their deaths daily in the news—lives young and old snuffed out. Young people are at high risk because of their unpredictable behavior. And when we look at the broader pattern of misuse of alcohol and drugs, we learn that a majority of the adults who are addicted to drugs and alcohol started down that path as a youth.
To break this cycle and help more young people stay healthy, Community Instigator is joining with consumer advocates nationwide in a three-year project to make alcohol and drug prevention and counseling more widely available to youth. It just takes a short conversation with young people to identify whether they're using drugs and alcohol, but, unfortunately, this is not a common practice in doctor's offices, schools, or in other places that young people gather.
The project, focused on youth ages fifteen to twenty-two, uses consumer-led advocacy to promote a cost-effective, public health approach called Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). SBIRT is a set of tools that helps identify alcohol and drug problems and guides intervention if a problem exists. It also supports youth who are not misusing substances by providing pep talks to encourage them to keep refraining.
The project is supported by a $2.5 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which will be matched by $1.7 million from other sources. The Hilton Foundation sees consumer advocacy as a critical part of its $10-million-a-year Youth Substance Use Prevention and Early Intervention initiative, which aims to ensure that at least 30 percent of U.S. youth have access to SBIRT, to increase the number of pediatricians and other youth workers trained to conduct SBIRT by 30,000, and to strengthen the evidence and encourage learning to improve delivery of prevention and early intervention services through SBIRT. The Hilton Foundation is also partnering with national medical associations, medical educators, youth organizations, and research institutes to increase knowledge about SBIRT.