NEWS

Legislation Falls Short, Maryland Department of Education to Mandate Schools Buy Their Own Epinephrine

By Carlton Purvis

On July 1, a Maryland law to protect school students prone to allergic reactions went into effect. The law, formerly SB 621, mandated public schools train personnel on how to recognize when students are experiencing symptoms of anaphylactic shock and respond using auto-injectable epinephrine. What the bill didn’t mandate is that schools actually have epinephrine in stock. Now the state has plans to mandate schools find a way to get some, with some schools wondering how they'll ever pay for a program they're calling an unfunded mandate.

Medical policies, health personnel staffing requirements, and medicines on hand vary from district to district so while some districts already had epinephrine policies and Epi-Pens in stock, others have none--and because of budget limitations, they didn’t plan to get any.

The last week of May, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed Senate Bill 621, requiring schools to develop policies and train school personnel to respond to students experiencing severe allergic reactions. Maryland became the third state to pass such legislation. Virginia’s legislation, Amarria’s Law, was passed after the death of 7-year-old Amarria Johnson. Johnson died at school after an allergic reaction from eating a peanut. Supporters of the law say it could have saved her life.

An epinephrine injection can mean the difference between life and death for people with severe allergic reactions. It works by slowing down the effects of an allergic reaction, buying time for responders to arrive or to get a patient to a hospital. A 2003 New York Presbyterian Hospital study estimated that approximately 1,500 people die each year from anaphylaxis.

Some districts were ready before the July 1st deadline. Others were still finalizing their plans to train staff when contacted this month.

In Charles County, Maryland, the legislation means no change. Epinephrine was placed in school years ago, the district's Director of Communications Katie O’Malley-Simpson said. The same can be said for Carroll County, which is just tweaking their training to add response procedures for students with unknown allergies.

St. Mary’s County Public Schools system already keeps a stock of Epi-Pens in its central office along with policies for students with a known history of allergies. St. Mary’s Superintendent Michael Martirano says the stock will be distributed among the schools before students return for the 2012-2013 school year. (Each middle school and high school will have two adult doses; each elementary school will have two adult and two pediatric doses.)

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