Taking a New Approach to Stem the Tide of Youth Overdoses. Advocates Urge Expanded Use of Screening and Intervention for Youth at Risk of Drug and Alcohol Dependency

Highland Park, New Jersey –New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund (NJCAEF) and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-New Jersey (NCADD-NJ), teamed up to conduct a three-year project aimed at improving access to effective screening and intervention services. Expanding these services can help youth avoid the destructive consequences of alcohol and drug misuse and addiction and stem the tide of opioid overdoses recurring at increasing frequency throughout our state.

This new initiative, focused on youth ages 15 to 22, will combine a cost-effective public health approach called Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) with the power of consumer-led advocacy. New Jersey was one of five states selected for this national project aimed at expanding awareness, access and coverage for these early screening and intervention services. The project seeks to boost the number and types of locations where youth can access these services, and increase the number and type of professionals who can conduct screening and brief intervention. Other states participating in this project are Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio and Wisconsin.

The effort has resulted in the introduction of Senate Bill 491 and the assembly Bill 4599. This measure would require all public and private high schools to annually conduct a written or verbal SBIRT screening of all students.

Under the provisions of the bill the parent or guardian of the student being screened must be given prior written notice and the opportunity to have the student opt out. Statements made by a student during a screening are considered confidential and cannot be disclosed without the consent of the student and the student's parent or guardian, except in case of medical emergency. 

Maura Collinsgru, Project Director for New Jersey Citizen Action said, “Expanding SBIRT for youth is in keeping with the Affordable Care Act’s emphasis on prevention. We are excited to have been one of the few states chosen to participate in this timely and innovative project that will help to expand understanding and access to this much needed preventive service for youth across New Jersey.”

The national project, supported by a $2.5 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, was paired with $1.7 million from other sources and managed by Community Catalyst, a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving health access. Community Catalyst will gather and disseminate the lessons learned from New Jersey and the other states chosen to participate in this demonstration project to help improve screening and intervention nationwide.

“Risky substance use puts New Jersey’s youth at high risk for addiction later in life,” said Ed Martone, Policy Analyst for NCADD-NJ. “We are seeing the tragic results of this in the reports about opioid overdoses and suicides. We look forward to working with our partners across the state to make sure early screening and prevention programs are available to all of New Jersey’s at risk teens. By doing so, we can improve the lives of those youths and their families while reducing the huge societal and health care costs associated with addiction.”

NJCAEF and NCADD-NJ have brought together a coalition of groups interested in the issue of addiction prevention and intervention to create a public education campaign on SBIRT. The coalition continues to engage consumer advocates, educators, faith-based groups, health care providers and youth organizations, working to address addiction among youth.


One of the commonly used adolescent screening tools can be viewed here . In addition, click on the image below for a provider guide regarding SBIRT.