New Jersey just won $7.5 million over five years to implement a new screening program for drug and alcohol abuse in Trenton.
Dr. Kemi Alli, chief medical officer at Henry J. Austin Health Center, said the federal money will fund new health educators there and at St. Francis Medical Center.
The grant “will allow us to, for the first time, do screening for our entire adult population for substance abuse, and then provide on-the-spot brief interventional services, and then refer as needed,” Alli said.
Under the program, patients will fill out a questionnaire with basic questions about smoking, drinking, and drug use.
New health educators will then provide counseling and referrals to a treatment program if necessary.
The program is not meant to target the seriously addicted, but patients whose unnoticed habits may be worsening a chronic disease or their overall health.
Treatment Research Institute CEO Tom McLellan gives an example.
“Suppose a woman is drinking two glasses of wine every evening at dinner and that’s it,” McLellan said.
Nobody would ever say she is an alcoholic. But, if she has breast cancer, her drinking could be affecting her health.
“Alcohol accelerates tumor growth at any rate.Most people don’t know that,” McLellan said. “You need to ask those kinds of questions.”
McLellan, a former federal drug control official, said a brief conversation with health-care providers has been proved to change patient behavior and save money in health-care costs.