Chicago Schools to Stock EpiPens; States, Feds May Follow Suit

By Nirvi Shah — February 10, 2012 1 min read
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All Chicago Public Schools will soon have epinephrine pens on hand—the prescription injections of a drug that can rapidly treat a potentially life-threatening allergic reactions

The pens, typically available only for students who have prescriptions for them, and who supplied them to the school, are now allowed to be stocked by schools in Illinois because of a new state law passed last year. The law followed the death of a 7th grader, Katelyn Carson, who died of an allergic reaction in December 2010 after a class party at school.

At the time, Illinois state law allowed schools to give prescription medicines only when prescribed by a doctor, supplied by a parent, and listed on the student’s medical plan.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that about 1 in 25 school-age children have food allergies. The National School Boards Association recently issued a comprehensive policy guide for schools about addressing food allergies at school. And later this month, the School Nutrition Association will host a webinar on managing food allergies at school.

A Virginia bill that would require that state’s schools to stock the pens is moving quickly through the legislature. Just last month, a 7-year-old girl in that state died after an allergic reaction at school. Ammaria Johnson started feeling ill during recess. The Chesterfield County school district said even if they had an EpiPen on hand that was prescribed to another student, they would not have been able to use it on Ammaria.

In Chicago, the Food Allergy Initiative said each school will get four to six injectors by the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, and school employees will be required to learn how to manage and prevent allergic reactions by students.

Federal legislation sponsored by Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, would reward states that require schools to keep a supply of the injectors on hand and allow authorized school personnel to use them if a student has an allergic reaction. The bill also has a provision that would require those states to have “Good Samaritan” laws in place to protect school employees who use the pens on a student they believe is having an allergic reaction. States that require schools to stock the pens would be granted preference for asthma-related grants administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.