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Daily Talker: Mandatory School Drug Screenings

Mandatory screening of middle and high school students for potentially risky drug behavior is among key provisions of a bill now being finalized by Massachusetts Senate leaders.

Students would be screened twice -- once in the seventh grade and once in 10th grade -- by school nurses, counselors or psychologists.

If an assessment was made that a student was using opiates or at risk of doing so, the student would be offered treatment, lawmakers said.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee was expected to finalize the bill today, with debate expected in the chamber next Thursday.

The legislation represents the latest effort at the state level to reverse an alarming trend: State health officials estimate more than 1,250 people died from opioid-related overdoses in 2014, compared to 939 deaths in 2013.

The school screening plan already has raised concerns about privacy and confidentiality among other top state leaders including Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, who chaired a special Senate panel on opioid abuse, insisted such concerns were unwarranted.

"It's not a drug test. They are not being urine tested for drugs, there are no criminal ramifications that come from this," said Flanagan, D-Leominster, who along with Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, briefed reporters Thursday on highlights of the bill.

What do you think of a proposal that would allow schools to screen 7th and 10th graders for potential drug use?

Leave your comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter using #WBZTalker.

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