The BIG Initiative is a campaign that engages many of the leading EAP vendors, businesses, EAP professionals, and benefits consultants who are working together to advance the use of SBIRT across the EAP industry. The intent is to make alcohol screening and brief intervention a routine practice across the field.
The BIG (Brief Intervention Group) Initiative is committed to changing the practice of Employee Assistance Programs and other workplace health and wellness programs so that screening for hazardous alcohol use and effective alcohol counseling, treatment and recovery supports are universal practices in the US and Canada. The BIG Initiative is a campaign dedicated mobilizing the entire EAP industry – clinicians, EAP companies and employers – to work together to make screening and brief counseling for hazardous alcohol use routine practice for employers across North America.
Drs. Eric Goplerud and Tracy McPherson at the Center for Integrated Behavioral Health Policy at The George Washington University (GW) initiated the pulling together of top leaders in the EAP Field to facilitate the advancement and utilization of SBIRT, a short brief instrument for the screening of alcohol use/abuse. The unveiling of this initiative began in the Fall 2009 at an EAPA Conference in Dallas. Since that time over 100 EAP professionals, vendors and academics have joined the ranks of this ambitious project. The goal being to make alcohol screening and brief intervention a routine practice across the field throughout all of North America.
A grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) initially underwrote the organizing costs of the BIG Initiative. Since its initial meeting at the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) conference fall, 2009, the BIG (Brief Intervention Group) Initiative has organized a campaign that includes employers, the largest national EAP vendors, many regional and internal corporate EAPs, clinical professional associations, Federal and state agencies, benefits consultants, and researchers. The focus of BIG is to make alcohol screening and brief intervention for problem drinking the universal practice of the industry.
In 2012, we became part of the National SBIRT-ATTC, a SAMHSA-funded center that provides information on the latest research-based best practices related to SBIRT and coordinates national efforts to advance SBIRT. As the National SBIRT-ATTC, we partner with the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions (IRETA) to offer an SBIRT Suite of Services for an interdisciplinary audience.
The BIG Initiative is a national organization of individuals and organizations joining together to promote routine screening for hazardous alcohol use and brief solution-focused counseling in every EAP and workplace health and wellness program. Our progress towards this ambitious goal can be seen on the BIG Initiative’s Strategic Plan.
Risky, hazardous, and harmful drinking are associated with physical and emotional health problems, alcohol-related traffic crashes, alcohol-impaired driving, accidents, and alcohol-involved violence. The financial burden of substance abuse to the U.S. economy is about $190 billion annually in lost productivity, injury, disease, law enforcement, and criminal justice. The majority of at-risk drinkers are employed full or part-time. EAPs are uniquely positioned to identify and intervene early with at-risk employees before their drinking results in adverse consequences or they become alcohol dependent.
SBI uses a brief, valid, scientific, screening (five minutes or less) to identify whether drinking places an employee at risk for negative consequences. Depending on the results from the screening questions, the EAP clinician may provide health education, simple advice, motivational counseling, help with an action plan or a referral for treatment. Although SBI is not a treatment for alcohol dependence, it can be help workers with serious alcohol problems to follow through on treatment referrals. SBI is especially well-suited for employees and family members who drink at unhealthy or hazardous levels.
The curriculum would not have been possible without funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)/ Department of Transportation, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT/SAMHSA) and unrestricted educational grants from Alkermes, Inc., Diageo, Inc. and corporate sponsors of the BIG Initiative. More than 150 employers, business coalitions, employee assistance and behavioral healthcare companies, substance use treatment programs, professional associations, researchers, benefits consultants and workplace wellness experts who actively participate in the BIG Initiative provide the real world laboratories for the tools and techniques presented in this training program. We are grateful for the outpouring of encouragement, advice and support we receive from these organizations and, especially, from the clinicians who have tested, probed and improved everything in this training program.