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SAMHSA News - March/April 2008, Volume 16, Number 2

Screening on Campus: Effective and Available

By Rebecca A. Clay

Although campus grantees use the SBIRT model in a variety of ways, their goals are the same.

No matter what the approach, grantees work to combat underage drinking and substance use, and they make screening and brief intervention a regular part of student health care.

Take the University of Massachusetts Amherst, for example. Historically, like many other campuses, the school has a high rate of binge drinking.

In 2003, almost 77 percent of students reported drinking five or more drinks in a sitting—what prevention experts call “heavy episodic drinking.” Forty percent of students were frequent heavy episodic drinkers, consuming alcohol in this way three or more times over a 2-week period. Now, these numbers are dropping.

In 2005, the university used a strategic plan to reduce high-risk drinking, integrating individual and environmental prevention strategies. The campus follows the individual SBIRT approach in its Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) program, said Project Director Diane Fedorchak, M.Ed., C.A.G.S., at University Health Services.

BASICS targets students who have violated the school’s alcohol policies, including possessing alcohol if they’re underage or having an open container in a public space.

The intervention consists of two hour-long sessions. At the first, a master’s level prevention specialist builds rapport; assesses the student’s drinking patterns, drug use, and family history; and provides information.

“We talk about what a drink is so students have a more accurate sense of their drinking. The intention is for students to understand that ‘two drinks’ is two 1.5-ounce servings of vodka, not two Nalgene bottles full of vodka,” explained Ms. Fedorchak.

At the second session, the prevention specialist reviews questionnaire results, compares the student’s drinking with that of other students, and offers suggestions for reducing the amount consumed.

Results are impressive on both campus and individual levels, said Ms. Fedorchak. The frequent heavy episodic drinking rate is down 38 percent. The heavy episodic drinking rate has declined 26 percent. “Our ‘heavy hitters’ are changing their habits,” she said.

For more information about SBIRT, visit SAMHSA’s Web site at

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