The Reading School Committee heard a presentation at their regular meeting on Monday, June 27th about the plans to implement Massachusetts’ new opioid law. This law, which was signed by Governor Charlie Baker on March 14th after being passed by the legislature unanimously, has a provision whereby public schools are now required to verbally screen students to determine who may be considered at risk from, or involved in, substance abuse. The screenings, to be done at two different grade levels based on the school, will be done by a school nurse or health professional. Parents have the ability to opt their children out of the screenings if they so choose.
Erica McNamara from the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse gave the presentation on how the program will be unfolding in Reading Schools, with verbal drug screenings taking place along with other required health screenings that take place during the school year. The screening will start this year at Reading Memorial High School and will start with one grade level. Eventually two grade levels will be assessed. Reading Police Lt. Richard Abate joined the presentation where new forms of drug paraphernalia was shown to the committee and discussed. School Committee member Julie Joyce expressed a desire for more parents to get informed about issues with drugs and how they are hidden by users.
While the members of the committee were positive about what was going to take place and how Reading students may be helped by the process, concern was expressed about how to pay for the new provisions given the current budget climate. “This sounds like another example of an unfunded mandate.” School Committee member Chuck Robinson expressed.