By Ellen Mazo, Director, Government Affairs, UPMC Children\u2019s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC\nFrom rural areas and small towns to large cities, the opioid epidemic has affected every community in Pennsylvania. That\u2019s why protecting the next generation from its stronghold is the goal of UPMC\u2019s substance use-prevention efforts and its SMART Choices program.\nUPMC recognizes that primary care providers have a unique opportunity during annual well-child visits to head off substance use and addiction before it becomes a lifelong problem.\nFor information about additional UPMC Addiction Medicine Services, call 412-692-CARE (2273).\n\n\n\n\n \r\n \r\n Subscribe to get more information on health care policy and how it impacts you \r\n \r\n Enter your email to subscribe\r\n \r\n \r\n\t \r\n \r\n Continue\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n I understand that by providing my email address, I agree to receive emails from UPMC. I understand that I may opt out of receiving such communications at any time.\r\n \r\n \r\n \nStarting Early\nYou may wonder why pediatricians need to be involved in substance use prevention. Here are a few reasons:\n\n\n\nIt\u2019s one of the leading causes of death and injury in adolescents.\nIts financial impact on families is greater than that of diabetes or cancer.\nPediatricians are often the first line of defense against the potential lifelong health and family crises resulting from opioid use in children.\nAccessing high-quality, specialized treatment early on is critical to preventing a cascade of substance use and abuse-related problems, opioid use in children, and death.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nTaking a Holistic View\nWith input from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC created a comprehensive assessment and intervention tool aimed at adolescents ages 11 to 18. UPMC Children\u2019s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC launched the Screening Motivational Interviewing and Referral to Treatment (SMART) Choices program to train pediatricians on how to identify the risks for developing a substance abuse disorder.\nThe SMART Choices program is employed during an adolescent\u2019s annual well-child or new-patient visit to screen for use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and illegal and prescription drugs.\nOnce a child is identified as at risk for substance abuse disorder, pediatricians provide care and addiction services through:\n\nBrief Intervention: If any risk is identified, pediatricians immediately provide brief in-office interventions, which have been effective in reducing drug and alcohol use.\nCoordinated Care: If risk remains after the in-office intervention, the next step is referral to an in-office behavioral health therapist for a complete behavioral health evaluation. The behavioral health therapist provides early in-depth intervention, usually two to three sessions over three months. Care Coordinators and Parent Support Partners also offer individually tailored peer and family support over the phone to help monitor progress, offer encouragement and navigate care.\nVirtual Intensive Family Support Team: If neither in-office intervention nor Coordinated Care are enough, a more intensive youth and family support service is provided. Offering virtual access through a facetime-like application, the care team can connect with families and provide support tailored to the needs of the youth.\n\nOf the 41,575 adolescents screened in 2017 from July to December, 231 were identified as high risk. Often, those who require intensive support services are at the highest risk and struggle the most to access needed services. Adolescents who received intensive support became more successful in school, thereby reducing intervention costs. These intensive support services, currently implemented in 16 Pennsylvania counties, have lessened the need for inpatient hospitalization, out-of-home placement, and involvement with juvenile justice and child welfare.\nWhat\u2019s Next?\nThe SMART Choices program exists at all Children\u2019s Community Pediatrics (CCP) locations. CCP is a Children\u2019s Hospital subsidiary of 45 practices across western Pennsylvania. Pediatricians have embraced the program and screen about 7,500 adolescents each month. Since the program began on June 1, 2016, more than 98 percent of CCP adolescents have been screened during their annual well-child visits.\n\n\n\n\nWith additional funding, SMART Choices will be able to provide virtual intensive family support to many high-risk adolescents in up to 27 counties.\nPennsylvania isn\u2019t alone in its fight against the opioid epidemic. As we continue to gather data on the progress of adolescents and families, we hope the SMART Choices program will become an effective nationwide model.\nFor information about additional UPMC Addiction Medicine Services, call 412-692-CARE (2273).