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Massachusetts opioid law: Parents wary of confidentiality during students’ drug screening

Published On: 05-13-2016 in Category: Drug abuse, opioid addiction


The new Massachusetts opioid law, which came into existence in March 2016 to combat the opioid crisis, includes provisions to check substance abuse problem in school children. The law makes it mandatory for public schools to verbally screen students to check for drug abuse.

However, the provision, which is applicable to all cities, towns, and regional schools, has brought in a sense of concern among parents and guardians regarding the confidentiality involved in the entire screening process in schools and the manner in which the program would be executed by the state.

Reacting to the concerns of the parents, Jennifer L. Flanagan, Massachusetts State Senator for the Worcester and Middlesex district, said, “We know what used to be experimentation with kids now can end in destruction and addiction, and even death.”

Drug screening of students to be verbal

Referring to the Section 97 of the law, Flanagan said that the screening would be verbal, with parents or respective guardians being given a choice to exempt their children from being screened for substance abuse. The entire process that was misapprehended as being too invasive does not include urine testing procedures or methods to monitor students’ behaviors.

Flanagan added, “It’s usually a 10-minute conversation with a student, and you can really gauge their risky behaviors or the possibility of risky behaviors when it comes to drugs.”

No physical records identifying pupils for possible addiction to be created

The law, titled “An Act relative to substance use, treatment, education and prevention,” clearly states that no physical records identifying pupils for possible addiction would be created, and concerning wards would be informed only if there is a state of medical emergency or if the student requests parental involvement.

Considering that a lot of school students frequently use marijuana, there is a chance of many students getting into unwanted trouble during drug screening. Responding to uneasiness among parents, Flanagan said that the schools would use the evaluation model known as Screening, Brief Intervention, or Referral to Treatment. The model is already being used in approximately 10 percent of Massachusetts public schools. As per the law, training would be provided to screeners, including nurses and counselors recruited by each school.

‘About 1-10% students may need necessary curative procedures’

Stressing on the procedure that would soon be applicable to all schools, Tom Scott, executive director, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said, “In theory, anything that can help to support children who may be on the verge or engaged with any kind of substance abuse we want to support, but the issue here is what is the mandate, what is required, and what is the cost to do this.”

According to the Massachusetts state health department, an estimated 1-10 percent students may require the necessary curative procedures. An estimated 230 people succumbed to opioid overdoses from January 2012 to December 2014, as per the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Road to recovery

To control the situation and to curtail the spread of opioid epidemic, it is imperative to understand that addiction is treatable for which one can visit either an inpatient rehab facility or an outpatient rehab facility.

If you or your loved one is battling addiction, call the Boston Drug Treatment and Rehab Center to learn about the best treatment options available in your area. You may call our 24/7 helpline at 857-254-1818 or chat online with our representative for further expert advice.

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