A bill that would put epi-pens in all public schools passed in the state Senate 33-0 despite concerns 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 made its way to the Senate after passing through the Assembly unanimously with a vote of 68-0. The bill next goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signature.
“SB 1266 will help save lives by ensuring emergency medication is available at schools, especially helping students who don’t know they have an allergy,” Huff said in a prepared statement. “I’m thankful to the numerous medical professionals, nurses and parents who testified on our behalf. This was truly a team effort.”
Hill is pleased with the unanimous support the bill received.
“I co-authored Senate Bill 1266 with Senator Bob Huff because I believe it’s essential that an emergency supply of this medicine that can save students’ lives be available in our schools,” Hill wrote in an email. “We’re grateful for the strong support this legislation has received from our colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly, and from parents, students and medical professionals.”
The path to passage of a bill that has union pushback is usually more laborious, Huff noted. The California Teachers Association opposed 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 on site 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.
“Educators remain very concerned about the health and safety of all students, but there are still cost issues associated with this bill that educators remain very concerned about,” said CTA spokesman Mike Myslinski. “The bill does not account for costs for school districts of keeping records concerning the buying and disposition of the injectors, for example. Or for staff to monitor the supply of injectors and to ensure the destruction of expired injectors. Also, there are costs for annually reporting data on the number of times injectors are used, among other costs.”
Huff made 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. 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.
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.
“I’d like to thank my colleagues in both the Senate and the Assembly for their unwavering support to put the safety needs of our children first,” Huff said in the statement. “I’m hopeful that the governor will see the need for this legislation and sign it into law. This is not a political issue. This is a safety issue.”
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