A bill that would put epi-pens in all public schools has been put on hold until later this summer after five policy committee hearings and concern from the California Teachers Association that the medical devices for allergies would require work beyond the typical scope of training.
Senate Bill 1266, introduced by state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, and co-authored by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would require public schools to stock epinephrine auto injectors, commonly known as epi-pens, on campus. The medicine can be administered quickly and safely if a student suffers from a serious allergic reaction during school hours, according to Huff.
Current state law allows public schools to stock epinephrine, but does not require it. The bill is currently at the Assembly Appropriations Committee after passing through the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday, but won’t be looked at again likely until August because of the Legislature’s summer recess.
“We’ve gone through five policy committees; more than most bills go through,” Huff said. “Appropriations is always a crapshoot — this one I’m hoping will get out of there. It’s whether the committee recognizes some things that have high value also have a cost. It’s clearly a new public health threat that needs to be addressed.”
Hill is hopeful about its passage.
“I think it has so far been successful — it’s gotten out of every committee,” he said. “I think it has a very good chance of passing. The facts speak for themselves. There is already precedent for bills similar to this getting out.”
The path to passage of a bill that has union pushback is usually more laborious, Huff noted. The California Teachers Association is opposed to the bill, fearing it could put teachers in a position beyond their training. A school nurse or, if the school does not have a school nurse or the school nurse is not onsite or available, a volunteer may administer an epinephrine auto-injector to a person exhibiting potentially life-threatening symptoms of anaphylaxis at school or a school activity when a physician is not immediately available. If the epinephrine auto-injector is used it shall be restocked as soon as reasonably possible, but no later than two weeks after it is used, according to the legislation. The teachers unions would rather see more school nurses hired on to administer epi-pens.
“It basically boils down to the health and safety needs of children are really best met through services of credentialed school nurse,” Mike Myslinski, spokesman for the California Teachers Association, previously said. “Educators are very concerned they could be called upon to perform medical procedures that are beyond the scope of any training they have received. It could pose significant threats to students’ health.”
Huff did make amendments to the bill that include the fact “volunteer” or “trained personnel” means an employee who has volunteered to administer epinephrine auto-injectors to a person if the person is suffering, or reasonably believed to be suffering, from anaphylaxis, and has been designated by a school and has received training pursuant to subdivision. Additionally, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act has state-mandated costs, there should be reimbursement to local agencies and school districts.
Still, the state teachers union doesn’t support the bill, Myslinski said. It still doesn’t sufficiently address costs or the negative unintended consequences, he said.
According to Food Allergy Research & Education, an advocacy group that sponsored Huff’s bill, as many as 15 million Americans suffer from life-threatening allergies to things such as bees, shellfish or nuts, gluten or latex. It is estimated that nearly 6 million of these people are children under the age of 18. Approximately 25 percent of first-time allergic reactions that require epinephrine happen at school and these potentially lethal allergic reactions are skyrocketing, according to Huff’s office.
The Legislature will adjourn on summer break after the July 4 holiday. Session resumes a month later and the bill could be up for vote on Aug. 14. From there it would be sent to the Assembly Floor. Should it pass, the bill must come back to the Senate for a concurrence vote since Huff made amendments in the Assembly. Then, it would go to the governor for a signature.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105