SBIRT Connects Students to Wellness Resources

SBIRT Connects Students to Wellness Resources
Posted on 05/06/2022

SBIRT is an acronym that is getting attention in our school district and in the news. But many people still ask, what is SBIRT?  What does SBIRT have to do with my student? 

SBIRT stands for Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral To Treatment/Services. The program was made possible through King County’s 2015 Best Starts for Kids levy, which was renewed with a 62% approval vote in August 2021. Best Starts for Kids aims to “meet children and families with the right services at the right time,” and the SBIRT screener, which is now offered at 56 King County middle schools, is one tool in that effort. 

SBIRT started in the Tahoma School District four years ago at the middle school level and is in its first year at the high school level. Students use a screener that asks various check-in questions that help to indicate if the student needs assistance. Tahoma’s website has more information: TSD SBIRT webpage

Eighth and Eleventh grade students are invited to take the screener. Additional grade level students can be provided with the screener if it will help with identifying resources available to meet a current need. Parents and students can opt out if they choose. Opting out of taking the electronic screener does not prevent students from choosing to visit a Wellness Advocate if the student would like to chat in the future about accessing resources.

Having SBIRT in place before the pandemic began allowed Tahoma School District to be proactive and responsive to these facts: 

Every student receives a follow up meeting with the Wellness Advocate at their school following the online screener to ensure that every student is heard and connected. The students discuss personal goals for academics, personal goals for outside of school, and health goals. Wellness Advocates talk with the students about resources they can assist students in finding, so as future needs arise, students know where they can turn for support and connection to what they need.

Many students turn to their peers for help with serious issues but students aren’t trained, nor have knowledge of the variety of resources available for assistance. As students meet our trained Wellness Advocates, they know they can recommend their friends to seek out the Wellness Advocates to get the help needed.

Wellness Advocates work with school counseling offices and follow the same guidelines for confidentiality. Tahoma has legal contracts about data sharing to maintain the privacy of student information for the electronically provided screeners. The goals sessions that each student has with the Wellness Advocates are confidential so students feel safe and comfortable providing information so they can be given resources tailored for their needs. 

Bryan Lloyd has been a school counselor for years and is new to Summit Trail Middle School and the SBIRT program this year. He has a photo collage about himself in his office as a way of introducing himself to students. His personal story shows his humanness to students that come to see him and helps to build rapport. “So they can actually understand me as the person, not the Wellness Advocate. So when we do have those very complicated conversations, they're more comfortable with sharing information with me, because they know that hey, this dude is relatable. This dude is trustworthy. This dude has my back. This dude is going to advocate for me,” says Lloyd. 


Liz Thibert, the District’s Wellness Coordinator, states “The SBIRT program is beneficial for all students. SBIRT isn’t just for students dealing with challenges. The SBIRT program aids in all students being seen and known.”  Thibert shared about how the Wellness Advocates are able to help students with a variety of needs such as matching students with sports, mental health services, substance counseling, tutoring, finding clubs in their schools that match their interests, and so much more. The Wellness Advocates have access to the District’s community partners that help connect students to resources of all types.

The data guides our staff on general topics that they can provide assistance to our students. Lloyd notes, “we have students struggling in silence. The screener helps us to understand where they are and what they feel they need.”  

Using social media, virtual classrooms, and electronic means of connecting to peers, our students are comfortable with interacting with the online medium where the screener is provided. By providing confidence in the privacy of the responses, students feel safe answering honestly to the questions. Meeting with a non-judgemental, non-punitive Wellness Advocate, gives the students the security to seek resources needed. If the student isn’t in need of resources at the time of the meeting, if a future need arises, the connection is already made for the student to pursue help.

For students that struggle with the stigma of mental health counseling, approaching a Wellness Advocate is more acceptable, recognizing that their advocate is available for topics such as connecting with peer groups, finding academic help, and other resources as needed. Gwendolyn Huete, Tahoma High School Wellness Advocate, said “In the traditional model, teachers refer students to Wellness Advocates because of a problem. Using the screener gives students the ability to come to us.”  The proactive and preventative features of the SBIRT program allows students to access resources before they are in crisis.

Megan Foreman, Maple View Middle School Wellness Advocate, loves to hear new students ask when it’s their turn to come see the Wellness Advocate because they hear from their peers the benefits of the goals meeting.

Parents have found support with this program, as well. The Wellness Advocates connect parents to resources available in the community that can help the whole family. Collaborating with families is fulfilling to see the whole student supported in their growth.

Establishing personal connections with students is the biggest benefit of the SBIRT program. Tahoma’s goals are to ensure students feel seen and known when they come to school and have support and access to resources in a safe, non-judgmental, supportive environment.


For more information about wellness resources at Tahoma, please visit: TSD Wellness Supports

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