Adolescents experiencing multiple consequences from their use are likely living with a moderate or severe substance use disorder. Providers should respond by using motivational interviewing to explore patients’ readiness to accept specialized treatment, where they can receive a comprehensive evaluation by a substance use specialist. With the adolescent’s permission, the provider can proactively connect the adolescent and their family with the appropriate professional or program.

Deciding where to refer a student in need of substance use or co-occurring treatment is often complicated by limited availability; lack of developmentally appropriate supports for adolescents; insurance coverage; and preferences of the adolescent and family. SBHCs should develop internal capacity to provide treatment, as well as become familiar with what specialized treatment resources are available in their communities.


  • Christina’s referral to treatment recording
  • California School-Based Health Alliance, School-Based Health SBIRT Quick Guide Referral to Treatment for Substance Use