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Grant Supports Efforts to Decrease Unhealthy Substance Use in 34 Georgia Counties

Atrium Health Navicent, First Choice Primary Care Continue Efforts to Assist Uninsured, Minorities and Economically Disadvantaged

Thanks to a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Atrium Health Navicent and partners will receive funding to implement Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) to identify and address unhealthy alcohol and drug use for patients across 34 Georgia counties.

The $4,871,825 grant, awarded to Institute of Public and Preventative Health (IPPH) at Augusta University will allow healthcare providers participating in the SBIRT Initiative for Georgia's Rural and Underserved Populations project to addresses healthcare disparities related to substance use disorder among minority, uninsured and economically disadvantaged patient populations. The five-year project will be implemented in seven Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) serving patients in a 34-county triangle linking Augusta, Macon and Savannah.

"This project gives us a unique opportunity to implement, and sustain, a much needed service in areas that are often overlooked when these type of funding opportunities come along," said J. Aaron Johnson, PhD, interim director of the IPPH and leader of the project.

Atrium Health Navicent and First Choice Primary Care, a FQHC with six locations in Macon and Warner Robins, will implement the project for the benefit of patients in the central Georgia area. Grant funding received for the project will allow Paul Seale, MD and his team to continue ongoing efforts to address alcohol and drug abuse, and meet the needs of underserved populations.

"The SBIRT Initiative for Georgia's Rural and Underserved Populations is one of five SBIRT dissemination projects implemented in the Southeast over the past decade, and they each have their roots in the pioneer SBIRT work conducted through Atrium Health Navicent's Department of Family Medicine. Thanks to grants from NIH and SAMHSA, we were able to conduct four SBIRT projects at Atrium Health Navicent from 2005 to 2016. This grant allows us to continue our work in an effort to reduce health disparities and unhealthy substance use in underserved communities," said Dr. Seale, a family practitioner with Family Health Center, Atrium Health Navicent.

Physicians and clinicians are able to identify and address unhealthy substance use using a comprehensive, patient-centered SBIRT model. Patients treated at the seven FQHCs participating in the project will be asked to complete screenings using tablet technology. The results of the screening will be integrated into the patient's electronic health record. Healthcare providers, including licensed clinical social workers, will provide interventions, up to referrals for treatment, based on the results of the screening.

In addition to implementing SBIRT services and establishing a patient-centered model of care, one of the goals of the project is to create a sustainable SBIRT model in FQHCs that can be replicable for other FQHCs throughout the state.

"Health centers around the country are working to increase their capacity to integrate behavioral health into primary care. This project is a great opportunity for us to learn from SBIRT experts and our colleagues at other health centers as we work to integrate this practice into our daily patient-centered model of care and use technology to support those efforts," said Katherine McLeod, Chief Executive Officer of First Choice Primary Care.

The goals and objectives of the project are closely aligned with Atrium Health Navicent's mission to elevate health and wellbeing for individuals across its service area, while improving health equity and minimizing healthcare disparities.

"Through this five-year project, Atrium Health Navicent and other participating partners will work together to screen thousands of individuals for substance use disorder, intervene, and refer to treatment if necessary. The impact will continue to spread as we train others to screen for and address unhealthy substance use in a variety of care settings. We are making a difference in the lives of individuals, their families and their communities through these efforts," said Tom Oliver, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Atrium Health Navicent.

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent, the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia, is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Licensed for 970 beds and offering care in 53 specialties at 30 facilities throughout the region, Atrium Health Navicent provides care for healthcare consumers' through an academic medical center; community, pediatric and rehabilitation hospitals; urgent care centers; physician practices; diagnostic centers; home health; hospice and palliative care; and a life plan community. Atrium Health Navicent is dedicated enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally-recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. For more information, please visit