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State Grant of $5.2 Million to Treat Substance Abuse Without Stigma of Going to Separate Centers

Treatment Becomes Part of Primary Care

TRENTON, NJ — The Trenton Health Team, a collaboration of the Henry J. Austin Health Center, Capital Health, St. Francis Medical Center, and the city’s Department of Health and Human Services to provide better medical care to Trenton residents, received a $5.2 million grant from the state to screen patients for drug and alcohol abuse during their visits to primary care clinics.

The five-year grant from the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services will also provide training for healthcare workers to screen and counsel patients for drug and alcohol addiction when those patients come in for primary care treatment. The program, which is provided at no cost to the patient, is called New Jersey Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (NJ SBIRT).

“I think a lot of our patients live and work in a very stressful environment here in Trenton, and having these services available on site with their primary care provider helps gain access for these needed programs,” said Dr. Kemi Alli, medical director of the Henry J. Austin Health Center. “And I hope it helps reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse treatment.”

“If you go to a substance abuse center, you’re often labeled a drug addict,” said Dr. Alli. “But by incorporating screening into the very fabric of how we treat our patients, it becomes not very different than treating diabetes and hypertension.”

The SBIRT screenings will be offered at all three Henry J. Austin locations: 321 North Warren Street, 317 Chambers Street and 112 Ewing Street, as well as Capital Health Family Medicine, 433 Bellevue and the St. Francis Adult Clinic, 601 Hamilton Avenue.

Patients at risk will be seen by trained health care educators who will be able to discuss treatment options with them while having a “motivational” discussion with them, she said. This session will last about 15 minutes. In the past, patients who screen positive for drug or alcohol problems have not always followed up with the treatment recommended, Dr. Alli said. The SBIRT program is expected to change that dynamic. Beginning in early 2013, the SBIRT program will encourage patients to get the help they need, Dr. Alli said. Rather than receiving a referral and having to come back for intervention, patients will receive screening and a short, motivational treatment in the primary care office.

The primary care centers already include bilingual staff. Patients requiring further treatment will receive assessment for their eligibility for state and county-funded services. The SBIRT program will also provide transportation for patients to the specialty treatment provider for the patient’s first visit.

Dr. Alli expects that 8,750 patients will be screened the first year of the SBIRT program.

THT Executive Director Dr. Ruth Perry welcomed the grant, saying that THT is moving to integrate behavioral health care into primary health care and the grant is the first step. “This will provide a much needed service to an underserved population,” Perry said. “It’s also in line with mandates under the Affordable Care Act.”

Dr. Robert Remstein, THT president and vice president for Accountable Care at Capital Health, believes the SBIRT program will help patients receive needed treatment.

“The idea is when patients come into primary care, screen them for signs of substance abuse, drug abuse and do a brief intervention and get them into treatment,” Dr. Remstein said. “This will train our providers in doing a brief intervention.”

“The Division is happy to partner with the Henry J. Austin Federally Qualified Health Center in supporting integrated physical and behavioral health services to improve the overall well-being of Trenton area residents in our federal SBIRT grant program,” said Division of Mental Health and Addictions Services Assistant Commissioner Lynn Kovich. “We are excited to be able to expand and enhance the continuum of care by making SBIRT services, which have been proven effective in reducing substance use and associated harmful negative health consequences, universally available to Trenton area adults.”

A multi-site analysis compared illicit drug use and alcohol use at intake and six months after for individuals who took part in SBIRT and found there was a significant decrease. Dr. Alli expects significant reduction in drug and alcohol use for patients who participate in SBIRT.

About the Trenton Health Team
Trenton Health Team (THT) is an alliance of the city’s major providers of healthcare services including Capital Health, St. Francis Medical Center, Henry J. Austin Health Center and the city’s Health Department. In collaboration with residents and the city’s active social services network, THT is developing an integrated healthcare delivery system to transform the city’s fragmented primary care system and restore health to the city. THT aims to make Trenton the healthiest city in the state. The THT receives generous support from The Nicholson Foundation, corporate partners and other foundations. For more information, visit