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Journal of Adolescent Health

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Social work with youth, Youth -- Mental health services, Young adults -- Mental health services, Social work with children



This study aimed (1) to evaluate the feasibility of a school-based Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program that expands on traditional SBIRT to support the mental health and well-being of middle school students and (2) to assess its effects on students’ connection with adults at school.


Focus group discussions were conducted with 26 students in grades 6–8 to understand student perspectives about an innovative school-based SBIRT program. A subset of middle school students from the SBIRT program who received a brief intervention (BI) after screening (n = 116) were asked to rate their experience meeting with the interventionist in terms of feeling comfortable, feeling listened to, and talking about their goals. Additionally, these students’ ratings of connection to adults at school was compared from the time of screening (baseline) to following BI using two-sided paired t-tests.


Students who participated in focus groups expressed favorable opinions about universal screening and this school-based SBIRT model and noted that relationship building with adults at school was an important factor for open communication and motivating behavior change for students. Nearly all students who completed the post-BI survey rated their experiences with interventionists during BI as “Excellent,” “Very Good,” or “Good” in all categories (98%). Students’ reported mean school connection scores significantly higher after participation in school-based SBIRT than at baseline (5.9/8 vs. 7.0/8, p < .001).


Middle school students were satisfied with the school-based SBIRT model and participation in the program resulted in increased student connection with adults at school. These findings improve our understanding of the experience of SBIRT intervention with middle school students and on school connection in particular.


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