Wachusett Guidance News

SBIRT Drug Screening Information

Dear Wachusett Students and Parents,


In addition to the letter I sent to all grade 10 students on February 19th, I wanted to create this newsletter to give a thorough overview of the state mandated SBIRT Drug Screening Program that 10th graders will be undergoing. If you have any questions about this program, please feel free to reach out to me directly.


SBIRT stands for Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment.


The first item in this newsletter is information is regarding the upcoming presentation on this topic. Please come; we want to answer your questions!


- Jon Krol

SBIRT Drug Screening Presentation for Grade 10 Parents

Tuesday, March 6th, 6:30-7pm

WRHS Auditorium

On Tuesday, March 6th from 6:30pm-7:00pm we will be hosting a presentation for parents of 10th graders on the new SBIRT Drug Screening mandated by the state. We will cover the aspects of the law, information around confidentiality, our procedures for conducting the screening, and opt-out information. There will be time for a Q&A as well.

This event will be held in the WRHS Auditorium and will start sharply at 6:30pm, due to the fact that another presentation will be held shortly after. No RSVP is necessary.

What is this new law?

In March of 2016, the Massachusetts State Legislature enacted this new drug screening law (MGL Chapter 71, Section 97). Simply put, they have mandated that Massachusetts schools verbally screen students for potential drug/alcohol use/abuse. Extensive training has been provided to schools to enact this screening.
This is the first year of implementation. School districts are required to screen students in two grade levels. At the high school, we will be screening students in grade 10. The middle schools in the district will be screening students in grade 7.


Here is the law in its entirety:


Section 97. (a) Subject to appropriation, each city, town, regional school district, charter school or vocational school district shall utilize a verbal screening tool to screen pupils for substance use disorders. Screenings shall occur on an annual basis and occur at 2 different grade levels as recommended by the department of elementary and secondary education, in consultation with the department of public health. Parents or guardians of a pupil to be screened pursuant to this section shall be notified prior to the start of the school year. Verbal screening tools shall be approved by the department of elementary and secondary education, in conjunction with the department of public health. De-identified screening results shall be reported to the department of public health, in a manner to be determined by the department of public health, not later than 90 days after completion of the screening.

(b) A pupil or the pupil's parent or guardian may opt out of the screening by written notification at any time prior to or during the screening. A city, town, regional school district, charter school or vocational school district utilizing a verbal screening tool shall comply with the department of elementary and secondary education's regulations relative to consent.

(c) Any statement, response or disclosure made by a pupil during a verbal substance use disorder screening shall be considered confidential information and shall not be disclosed by a person receiving the statement, response or disclosure to any other person without the prior written consent of the pupil, parent or guardian, except in cases of immediate medical emergency or a disclosure is otherwise required by state law. Such consent shall be documented on a form approved by the department of public health and shall not be subject to discovery or subpoena in any civil, criminal, legislative or administrative proceeding. No record of any statement, response or disclosure shall be made in any form, written, electronic or otherwise, that includes information identifying the pupil.

(d) The department of elementary and secondary education shall notify each school district in writing of the requirement to screen students for substance use disorders pursuant to this section. School districts with alternative substance use screening policies may, on a form provided by the department, opt out of the required verbal screening tool. The form shall be signed by the school superintendent and provide a detailed description of the alternative substance use program the district has implemented and the reasons why the required verbal screening tool is not appropriate for the district.

(e) No person shall have a cause of action for loss or damage caused by an act or omission resulting from the implementation of this section.

What kind of screening is this?

This is a verbal screening only. Students will have a conversation with an SBIRT trained staff member in a private office, on a one-on-one basis.


The screening will consist of a brief introduction for the student, some specific questions, and will be followed by a brief conversation. It's expected that the screening will take approximately 5-15 minutes.


Here is a link to the questions that will be asked.


The individual screenings will take place during the school day between March 12th and June 1st.


The people conducting the screenings, the SBIRT trained WRHS staff are:


  • Nurse Sawyer
  • Nurse Duong
  • Jon Krol (Head of Guidance)
  • Anthony DiBenedetto (Assistant Principal)
  • Andrew Costa (Assistant Principal)

Will parents be informed of the results?

No. Parents will not be informed of any screening results. The training and law is very explicit that parents cannot be notified of the screening results.

"Any statement, response or disclosure made by a pupil during a verbal substance use disorder screening shall be considered confidential information and shall not be disclosed by a person receiving the statement, response or disclosure to any other person without the prior written consent of the pupil"

In addition, Massachusetts law goes further. Minors as young as 12 are even able to obtain medical treatment for substance abuse without parental consent or notification. See Mass General Law Chapter 112 Section 12E.

"Section 12E. A minor twelve years of age or older who is found to be drug dependent by two or more physicians may give his consent to the furnishing of hospital and medical care related to the diagnosis or treatment of such drug dependency. Such consent shall not be subject to disaffirmance because of minority. The consent of the parent or legal guardian of such minor shall not be necessary to authorize hospital and medical care related to such drug dependency and, notwithstanding any provision of section fifty-four of chapter one hundred and twenty-three to the contrary, such parent or legal guardian shall not be liable for the payment of any care rendered pursuant to this section. Records shall be kept of such care. The provisions of this section shall not apply to methadone maintenance therapy."


This is not to say that students will not be encouraged to talk to their parents. If a student has a drug/alcohol problem, we will almost always encourage that student to talk with his/her parent and get the parent involved. Often, students will use us to be the conduit to having that conversation with their parent.

Opting Out

Parents have the ability to opt their students out. The form for parents is available here and is due to the WRHS guidance office by Friday, March 9th.


Students also have the ability to opt out, separately from their parents. The student form is available here and is due to the WRHS Guidance Office by Friday, March 9th. Students can also opt-out at any point during the screening itself.

What information/data will be collected?

Part of this state mandate requires schools to send aggregate screening results to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.


What this means is that the number of students who respond positively or negatively to the various screening questions will be sent. No student names or identifying information is ever sent to the state, nor is any of that information recorded. In fact, the screenings are verbal only - students can see the questions if they like, but they do not fill out any questions on a piece of paper; part of the rationale for that is to keep student names and information private. Student names are not recorded as part of this process.

What happens if a student screens positively and needs additional help?

If a student screens positively, we will encourage them to speak to a parent, their guidance counselor, or an outside agency to get additional support.

The student will need to give written consent to reach the next tier of support (traditionally, their guidance counselor and/or a parent).

Tell me more about confidentiality. Are there any exceptions?

As you can see in this newsletter and in the language of the law around SBIRT, confidentiality is a huge piece of this legislation.

The person doing the screening with the student cannot share the information with anybody without the written consent of the student. Additionally, the results would never impact student discipline in any way.

The exception to this confidentiality clause is if, as the law states, the screener feels that in his/her professional opinion the student is in immediate medical danger or a "disclosure is otherwise required by state law."

What outside resources exist for students struggling with drug/alcohol addiction?

Here are some community resources that a WRHS student could take advantage of:


  • Interface Referral Service - a counseling referral agency which streamlines referrals and cuts down on wait list time - more information is available on our guidance webpage. This is a partnership WRHS has with Interface and is only open to WRHS students.

  • Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline
    800 327-5050 - http://helplinema.org
    The Massachusetts Helpline will continue to work with families and other key stakeholders to devise the most appropriate course of action for adolescents and young adults ages 13-24 in need of treatment for their use of substances. Options include:

    1. Placement in a stabilization program
    2. Placement directly at residential programs without a prior stay at stabilization level of care
    3. Referrals to statewide outpatient, community-based Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA) services
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline - A free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. 1-800-662-HELP (4357) - https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline