More than half of states now have legislation permitting schools to keep epinephrine auto-injectors on hand to treat students or staff who have unexpected severe allergic reactions, and the Treasure Valley Food Allergy Network is working on proposed legislation for Idaho. Under current law, Idaho schools can’t keep Epi-Pens or other injectors on hand unless they’ve been prescribed for a specific person. Starla Higdon, a pharmacist and head of the allergy network, presented the proposed legislation to the Idaho Legislature’s Health Care Task Force today, but the senators and representatives on the panel took no action. The bill still could be brought forward when lawmakers convene in January.
Rep. Brandon Hixon, R-Caldwell, expressed concern about a clause removing liability for school personnel who administer the injections in good faith even if parents haven’t given advance consent. “I have a little bit of concern with that,” he said. Others questioned the cost to schools. Higdon said the manufacturer of the Epi-Pen has a program that will provide four injectors to each school for free, and discounts on additional ones. A new federal law just signed last month also offers states incentives for passing such legislation.
There’s been a flurry of states passing legislation since a Virginia first-grader died of an allergic reaction in 2012 when an epinephrine injection could have saved her life. Closer to home, a Spokane third-grader with severe peanut allergies died after eating a peanut butter cookie on a school field trip in 2001. “I understand the difficulty,” said Task Force Co-Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, who said he has a granddaughter with severe food allergies. He said of the bill, “It may be a start, but it may need some work as well.”