Screen To Keep Clean

Scituate public schools will be participating in SBIRT, a drug health screening for all eighth and tenth graders

Anna O'Connell, Staff Writer

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In March 2016, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed the STEP Act, outlining requirements for public schools to partake in substance screening and education. Some may remember the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, an anonymous survey taken by students in grades eight and up. This year, eighth and tenth grade students will be participate in a SBIRT, which stands for screening (S), brief intervention (BI), and referral to treatment (RT). About 75-85% of the students are expected to screen negative for unhealthy substance use.

Last year, several towns piloted this program. During the 2017-18 school year, all towns in Massachusetts will conduct these interviews. In Scituate, interviews will be conducted by the school nurses, Ms. Ellen Claflin, RN (SHS) and Ms. Kellie Roche, RN (Gates). Claflin said they chose to screen these grades due to “studies that had been taken over the last so many years with the opioid crisis and where Scituate saw an increase in use of certain things in that age bracket.” Some people expressed concerns about the authenticity of student responses in the screening; however, Claflin feels that “when people are…presented with an opportunity to tell, sometimes they are honest.”   

Interviews will start on December 12th, as students are alerted by email to report to the nurse’s office at a certain time. Students will go to the nurse’s office, where they will be asked a series of questions used to determine a student’s risk with regard to substance abuse.  One SHS sophomore said the interview only took about three minutes, noting he was truthful in his answers. However, some students wondered if SHS sophomores would answer truthfully–especially to the school nurse–if they had partaken in illicit activities.

Some students see similarities between the SBIRT and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which is an anonymous online survey given to all students in grades 7-12 in their health classes each year. The YBRS goes in greater depth than the SBIRT, but the screening gives students a feeling a safety and trust due to its anonymity.

Effects of the survey may not be evident until years later, and students are urged to be authentic with their answers.   

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Screen To Keep Clean