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Opt-In Substance Abuse Screening Amendment Fails

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A proposal to allow cities and towns to opt into a substance abuse screening program for students failed during Thursday's Senate debate on a bill that establishes a statewide screening program and allows parents to opt out of it if they wish. The vote was 11-27.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Karen Spilka said the $1.2 million cost of screening would be covered under a supplemental budget bill she expects to be released on Monday. The House on Wednesday approved a $360 million fiscal 2015 supplemental budget.

Student screening, according to Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), requires more research. Raising questions about how candid students may be, Brownsberger said he'd received mostly negative feedback to the idea on his website.

Also during debate, the Senate rejected a Sen. Brian Joyce amendment permitting consumers to bring a private lawsuit to enforce their rights under the mental health parity law and to receive treble damages and attorney fees. Joyce said he did not believe insurers were delivering on the promise of the parity law and said insurers that are complying would have no cause for concern over being sued. The vote was 10-27.

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