Grant targets substance abuse screening and intervention

Examination room

Northern Arizona University has received a three-year, $300,000 grant from Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Association to participate in a national project to combat substance abuse.

Through the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment project, NAU’s Campus Health Services will join college health centers around the country to implement a program to identify high-risk alcohol and drug use during routine medical visits.

By rapidly assessing all patients, Campus Health providers will be able to more readily and frequently identify at-risk students and take action before the problems become more serious.

“College and university health centers provide ideal settings to identify and intervene early with students,” said Beth Applebee, executive director of NAU’s Campus Health Services. “This grant is an excellent example of how education and prevention efforts can be integrated into a medical visit and keep students on track toward healthy lives.”

Just as patients are asked about tobacco use and exercise, the project seeks to make alcohol and drug use part of the regular conversations between providers and students. As part of the grant, NAU Medical Services will gain an on-site health educator who will provide training for staff and wellness coaching for students.

Pointing out unhealthy behaviors and engaging students in these types of conversations can be difficult, according to Melissa Griffin, manager of NAU’s Health Promotion. Training in the screening and referral program will emphasize motivational interviewing techniques to work with students in a way that makes them feel comfortable and increases their motivation to change.

The project kicked off at the beginning of the spring semester and is expected to run through 2017.

For information contact Melissa Griffin at