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Program- and service-level costs of seven screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment programs

Authors Bray J, Mallonee E, Dowd W, Aldridge A, Cowell A, Vendetti J

Received 8 February 2014

Accepted for publication 6 May 2014

Published 1 July 2014 Volume 2014:5 Pages 63—73


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Jeremy W Bray,1 Erin Mallonee,2 William Dowd,2 Arnie Aldridge,2 Alexander J Cowell,2 Janice Vendetti3

1Department of Economics, Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA; 2RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA; 3Department of Community Medicine and Health Care, School of Medicine, UCONN Health, Farmington, CT, USA

Abstract: This paper examines the costs of delivering screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) services within the first seven demonstration programs funded by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Service-level costs were estimated and compared across implementation model (contracted specialist, inhouse specialist, inhouse generalist) and service delivery setting (emergency department, hospital inpatient, outpatient). Program-level costs were estimated and compared across grantee recipient programs. Service-level data were collected through timed observations of SBIRT service delivery. Program-level data were collected during key informant interviews using structured cost interview guides. At the service level, support activities that occur before or after engaging the patient comprise a considerable portion of the cost of delivering SBIRT services, especially short duration services. At the program level, average costs decreased as more patients were screened. Comparing across program and service levels, the average annual operating costs calculated at the program level often exceeded the cost of actual service delivery. Provider time spent in support of service provision may comprise a large share of the costs in some cases because of potentially substantial fixed and quasifixed costs associated with program operation. The cost structure of screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment is complex and discontinuous of patient flow, causing annual operating costs to exceed the costs of actual service provision for some settings and implementation models.

Keywords: screening, brief intervention, brief treatment, SBIRT, cost

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