State and federal lawmakers are trying to make schools safer for kids who have allergies that threaten their lives.
Congress has approved a measure to provide federal money to supply schools with epinephrine injectors, or EpiPens, to aid kids who have severe reactions to a food allergy, a medicine allergy or an insect sting.
The measure, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, provides federal grants to states that make sure schools are supplied with EpiPens and have trained school personnel to use them. States must also ensure civil liability laws shield the legitimate use of the devices in emergencies.
Ohio lawmakers have been considering House Bill 296, which allows schools to stock epinephrine injectors for use in emergency situations. The measure, by state Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, has passed the House but hasn’t been approved by the Senate yet. Johnson did not respond to requests for an interview.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, a co-sponsor of the federal measure, said he hopes Ohio lawmakers will enact House Bill 296 and make sure all Ohio schools have epinephrine on hand.
“We must do everything we can to ensure that our children are safe and can receive the treatment they need if they suffer a life-threatening, allergic reaction at school,” Brown said. “This new federal law gives priority funding to states that take the important steps necessary to ensure epinephrine is available for students in case of an emergency.”
Brown’s office said food allergies cause 150 to 200 deaths a year and account for more than 300,000 emergency room visits each year.
Janet Mesenburg, director of nursing for the Erie County Health Department, supervises the school nurses the department provides to many school districts in Erie County.
Mesenburg said under current state law, students are allowed to have epinephrine injectors if they bring a doctor’s order to school.
Expanding the availability of epinephrine would protect both students and adults who work at the school, she said.
“It could be a staff member who could have a reaction,” she said.
If Ohio law is changed, the health department will help schools obtain and use epinephrine injectors, she said.
“We absolutely would expand to meet that need,” she said.