- Associated Press - Saturday, February 18, 2017

HANOVER, N.H. (AP) - A Dartmouth College program will train health care professionals at five colleges to screen patients who are at risk of, or may already be, abusing drugs or alcohol.

The goal of the initiative is to reduce substance abuse rates that are among the highest in the nation. Alcohol consumption is higher than the national average while rates of opioid death in New Hampshire have spiked 191 percent over the past five years, according to Dartmouth. Many addicts don’t seek treatment.

The initiative is run by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the New Hampshire Area Health Education Center. Colleges taking part in the program are Antioch University New England, Franklin Pierce University, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, the University of New Hampshire, and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

The program will train prospective doctors and nurses in a system known as Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment. The program offers ways for health care professionals to intervene early before substance use leads to more serious problems.

“Much of the focus has been at the later stages of this problem: chronic addiction, overdoses and fatalities. We want to help health care professionals concentrate their efforts at the front end,” Kristina Fjeld-Sparks, director of New Hampshire AHEC, said in a statement.

The program focuses on the role that doctors and nurses play in people’s lives. The training helps them become better at spotting a substance-abuse problem in their patients and referring them to treatment if needed.

“There is a common misconception that health care providers - doctors, nurses or pharmacists, others - just instinctively know how to talk to people about substance abuse, but that’s really not the case for most of us,” Fjeld-Sparks said. “After all, how would you know, if you hadn’t received enough, or any, training.”

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