Proven Strategies Can Improve Access to Screening, Intervention for Risky Drug and Alcohol Use

BOSTON, MA – Heroin and prescription opioid overdoses continue to rise across the country, surpassing car accidents as the leading cause of injury-related deaths. At the same time, young people across the country are gaining access to health insurance at historic rates, opening up new opportunities for youth to access preventive and early intervention services. To fight the overdose epidemic and take advantage of the focus on prevention, Community Catalyst is launching a three-year project to improve access to effective screening and intervention that can help young people avoid the destructive consequences of alcohol and drug misuse and addiction.

This new initiative, focused on youth ages 15 to 22, will combine a cost-effective public health approach called Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) with the power of consumer-led advocacy. The project is supported by a $2.5 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which will be paired with $1.7 million from other sources.

“Millions of youth age 15 to 22 engage in risky substance use that puts them at high risk for addiction down the road,” said Alice Dembner, director of the Substance Use Disorders Project at Community Catalyst. “We are seeing the tragic results of this in the frequent reports about opioid overdoses and suicides. By applying our proven advocacy model to early screening and intervention, we can improve the lives of those youths and their families while reducing the huge societal and health care costs associated with addiction.”  

The project will focus on five strategically selected states to improve insurance coverage for early screening and intervention services, increase the number and types of locations where youth can access those services, and increase the number and type of professionals who can conduct screening and brief intervention. The states are Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Wisconsin. Community Catalyst will gather and share the lessons learned from those five states to help improve screening and intervention nationwide.

The states have been selected to participate either because they have the potential for significant breakthroughs or because they can influence other states to take action. More than $400,000 of the additional funds will come from these states. Consumer advocates in each of the five states will create a public education campaign that is tailored to its youth demographic, the scope of the problem and the best policy solutions. The campaigns will be designed to bring together the power of many groups who care about the issue, which has been an effective approach to change in the health reform arena. These stakeholders will include youth organizations, parents groups, teachers, organizations working to address addiction, faith groups and health care providers.

“We are excited to take a fresh approach to keeping youth on a healthy and productive path,” said Dembner. “This project will help us overcome the lack of awareness and buy-in that has prevented early screening and intervention from being widely adopted and focusing on youth.”

The project is one of several being funded by the Hilton Foundation to advance SBIRT to prevent youth addiction. Additional funding for this project is being provided by Shatterproof and by The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation. Support from the Open Society Foundations for initiatives to expand coverage of substance use disorder services laid the groundwork for this project. 


About Community Catalyst

Community Catalyst is a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1998 with the belief that affordable quality health care should be accessible to everyone. We work in partnership with national, state and local organizations, policymakers, and philanthropic foundations to ensure consumer interests are represented wherever important decisions about health and the health system are made: in communities, courtrooms, statehouses and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit Read our blog at Follow us on Twitter @healthpolicyhub.

About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world’s disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance abuse, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton’s support for the work of Catholic Sisters. In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants, distributing $92 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2013. The Foundation’s current assets are approximately $2.4 billion. For more information, please visit

About Shatterproof

Shatterproof is a national organization committed to protecting our children from addiction to alcohol or other drugs and ending the stigma and suffering of those affected by this disease.  Gary Mendell, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, founded Shatterproof to educate, empower and equip families, educators, health care providers, legislators and others to address addiction on a national scale.  For more information about Shatterproof, please visit

About The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation

The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation supports community programming that results in children, adolescents, and young adults affected by substance abuse, learning disabilities, mental illness, and intellectual disabilities achieving their full potential.”