$870,000 Training Grant to Help UMass Amherst Nursing Program Tackle Substance Abuse and Mental Illness in the Community

Donna Zucker
Donna Zucker
Sally Linowski
Sally Linowski

AMHERST, Mass. – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded the College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst $870,000 to develop a program to train student nurses in screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT).

The project is one of only 12 to be funded nationally by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

SBIRT is an approach for delivering early intervention and treatment to people with, or at-risk of developing, alcohol and/or substance use disorders. The grant addresses the growing need for medical care providers working across a variety of service delivery settings to be trained in SBIRT.

The undergraduate training program, called “SBIRT: The Power of Nursing to Change Health,” builds on a SAMHSA curriculum and will be integrated this fall into existing psychiatric/mental health, pediatric/young adult and community nursing courses that incorporate alcohol and substance abuse disorders. Student nurses will apply these new skills in their community and medical/surgical rotations as part of a partnership with the Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center, the Center for Health Promotion, University Health Services and the Springfield Public Schools.

The College of Nursing’s Donna Zucker will serve as principal investigator for the project along with co-principal investigator Sally Linowski, associate dean for Student Affairs and Campus Life. They will implement the training curriculum in collaboration with a multi-disciplinary team from Nursing, Public Health and Student Affairs and Campus Life. Over the three-year project, up to 500 students will be trained in SBIRT techniques.

“We are optimistic about the SBIRT curricular approach to teaching behavior change,” said Zucker. “We believe SBIRT: The Power of Nursing to Change Health has great potential to impact the medical system and in the long run improve patient outcomes.”

Linowski added, “This grant boosts the ongoing work of the University in bringing evidence-based practice to substance abuse prevention and treatment.”

“Ten years ago, I led the implementation of the university’s Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students, or BASICS, program with SAMHSA-CSAT funding,” she said. “That helped to upgrade UMass Amherst’s alcohol intervention programs for students to best practice. We’ve brought that team together with our nursing colleagues to continue this tradition of providing students with cutting-edge services and training opportunities.”

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