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New York
Local Colleges Collaborate to Implement Training on Substance Use Disorders
Story Number is : 110517124
Albany Medical Center

Albany Medical College’s Department of Psychiatry is collaborating with The Sage Colleges and the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to implement training in identification and intervention strategies for substance use disorders (SUD) and “risky” use of substances. The training is supported by a three-year, $850,000 grant to Albany Medical College from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) Health Professions Student Training.

The training is being offered to students and trainees studying to be physician assistants, psychologists, physicians, family medicine practitioners, and psychiatrists at Albany Med, as well as The Sage College’s nurse practitioner program, and the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ pharmacy program.

“While medical professionals are trained to ask patients about their substance use habits, they are not routinely trained to discuss the medical and social risks associated with those habits and perform an intervention to help the patient take steps to decrease those risks. We will educate providers to use motivational interviewing techniques to encourage patients to think about the effects of their substance use and work to identify methods for risk/harm reduction,” explained Victoria Balkoski, M.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Albany Medical College. “We are excited to begin this unique collaboration with The Sage Colleges and Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and appreciate their assistance in developing these programs.”

According to Dr. Balkoski, the latest guidelines indicate that women (and men over 65) should have no more than one drink per day, three drinks at any one time, and seven drinks in a week. Men 65 and under should have no more than two drinks per day, four drinks at any one time, and 14 drinks per week. Anything more than these numbers places individuals at risk for harm, either through damage to their bodies, accidents or other effects on their personal and work or school lives. The greater the amount used, the greater the risk and the more hazardous or harmful the effects.

Dr. Balkoski explains that providers are trained to ask patients about the “pros and cons” of their use, including how their drinking or substance use impacts their health, relationships and their work/school. They also explain the negative health consequences of their use.

“Once the patient recognizes the cons of their actions, along with the potential dangers, they might be more likely to come up with a specific goal to decrease their use and attempt strategies for cutting down, such as avoiding triggers, planning ahead, or alternating non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages at social functions,” said Balkoski.

The curriculum includes an online interactive module with information on screening for alcohol, drug, and prescription medication misuse and abuse, as well as motivational interviewing techniques. Goals for all students include increasing knowledge and competence in understanding SUD and associated health risks, screening for SUD and educating patients about risks, and motivating patients to change their behavior to reduce their risks. Each profession is committed to continuing SBIRT training for their students after the completion of the grant. The three institutions hope to develop inter-professional educational programs to increase skills in interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, and increased understanding of the roles each professional group can play in treating and preventing SUD and associated health problems.

Training began this year and includes faculty and community preceptors from all professional disciplines. Up to 750 students and more than 40 faculty are expected to be trained over the course of the grant.

In 2008, Albany Med received a five-year SBIRT grant to train medical residents.

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