EpiPen legislation for NC schools hung up in Senate

Posted April 8, 2014

— A bill that would make epinephrine injectors, commonly known as EpiPens, available in all North Carolina schools remains stalled in the state Senate.

EpiPens are used to treat people suffering severe allergic reactions. Students with prescriptions are allowed to have them, but schools aren't allowed to keep extras on hand for students who don't have a prescription.

The state House passed the legislation unanimously last April, but the Senate refused to take it up before adjourning last summer. Senate leaders wouldn't say Tuesday whether they will vote on the measure when they reconvene in May.

Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, the mother of a 7-year-old with a peanut allergy, told members of the Education Oversight Committee on Tuesday that the law is needed to help her son and other children with potentially fatal allergies.

"If another kid got messy with their peanut butter and jelly sandwich that they packed for lunch, and then they went to the swing-set before my son and touched the swing, and my son then came and sat on that same swing and put his hands in his mouth, as 7-year-olds often do, he could die," Montgomery-Blinn said.

Her son has an EpiPen everywhere he goes, she said, but some children who need them may not.  Researchers say about 5% of all children have dangerous allergies, and many may not even know about them – as many as one in four children have their first reaction at school.

"Maybe they're not diagnosed with the allergy yet. Maybe it's the first time they get a bee sting at recess or the first time they eat a cashew during a project in class," she said.

Without EpiPens, all schools can do for anaphylactic shock is call 911. Four students in other states have died waiting for help, according to Dr. Ben Wright, a Duke University researcher, who noted that the number of North Carolina students needing EpiPen injections at school has jumped from 5,000 in 2004 to 13,000 in 2012.

Wright also told the panel that the pens carry minimal danger of side effects in children.

"All of the physician community is supportive, all of the school community is supportive and it's occurring throughout the country," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, who sponsored the bill.

Some senators at Wednesday's hearing voiced concerns about liability, but Glazier said his bill includes immunity for actions taken in line with school policy.  It also includes training for teachers and staff at schools, though many are already trained in the use of the injectors. 

Montgomery-Blinn is hopeful the Senate will act this year. "Hopefully we'll get it passed before we ever have a child to name it after, and it'll save lives."

North Carolina is one of just five states without an EpiPen law on the books or pending.

Congress passed a bipartisan law last November that provides federal funding to pay for the injectors if states require schools to have them, and the EpiPen manufacturer already offers free and discounted injectors for schools. 


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  • sisu Apr 10, 2014

    One of my daughters has never been stung by a bee or anything. I would have no clue if she has a bee allergy. I think it would be hugely important to have an epi at the school for students who may suddenly have an unexpected reaction. Also, she has a peanut allergy but it has not been life-threatening. Still, I know reactions can unexpectedly intensify.

    Epi pens are well worth it. My nephew does have life threatening allergies. He carries an Epi and all of us know how to use it. It is not hard at all. I would pretty much trust anyone who can read to administer it to my daughter if she had an unexpected life-threatening reaction. I would 100% trust the school nurse to administer it. Our school nurse is fabulous, up-to-date, caring, and smart.

  • Wake1 Apr 10, 2014

    C'mon you head up your rear legislators - let's get this done!

  • laurapisoni Apr 9, 2014

    That's fine. We can just make a list of people who would rather their kids die while waiting for EMTs than get a (really, really) simple shot from a nurse or school staff member.

  • Barbara Horton Apr 9, 2014
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    How is it that you think nurses (any of us, not just school nurses) are underskilled? especially with something like an Epipen that I have taught (and seen) 12 year olds use. Its not a nurse practicing medicine. Clearly you are misinformed. Also, maybe you think the numbers are low, and if they are, so be it, but to me, saving the life of even one child is worth it.

  • dmoore616 Apr 9, 2014

    The fact is that there are more educators committing sexual assaults against students in North Carolina schools than there are students undiagnosed and experiencing severe allergic reactions. It is the parents responsibility to complete the medical assesment paperwork and provide that medication to the school. Having an underskilled nurse practicing medicine is a lawsuit and criminal charge waiting to happen.

  • andreanicole686 Apr 9, 2014

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    Exactly. I love that the people talking have no clue what they are talking about. Our school nurse is highly qualified and we have two first responders who were trained to use the Epi-pen as well. I am one of the first responders who was trained and we are trained not only how to use it but we also have on file who has what allergies from Elementary school. It's not a first response effort to just get an epi-pen obviously. That is a last step in an emergency situation. The ones who complain about 'they would flip out' if a school nurse used an Epi-Pen are also those who don't turn in the right documents for the nurse or send their kids to school without their medication. Some students who have severe allergies bring the right equipment to school or take it at home but many don't.

  • Barbara Horton Apr 9, 2014
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    Secondly, many allergies are undiagnosed until a reaction actually occurs. Having an Epipen on hand could save your child's life. Why would you not want that? Would you also not want someone to give you an aspirin if you had symptoms of a stroke, or use an AED on you (or your child) if your heart stopped ? These are not meant to replace a formal diagnosis by your physician, they are meant to save your life until you can reach a hospital!

  • changedmyname Apr 9, 2014

    How come everything that makes any sense gets held up in the Senate?
    Don't answer this, I'm just being cynical.

  • Barbara Horton Apr 9, 2014
    user avatar

    DMOORE616, I hate to break it to you but we (School nurses) are not taking temps and dresing minor lacerations. School staff members are doing that. We are helping to manage your child's illness in the schoool setting, training staff on administering Epipens and other life-saving medications, and are able to do health assessments on students as well as many other things. I am not sure what you mean by our medical training lacks credibilty. Clearly, you are not clear about what a licensed RN is able to do, or what our training entails. In the school setting, many kids are referred to their doctor for an important health issue because the nurse is the one who picked up on it.

  • MB4579 Apr 9, 2014

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    Chances are high that even in your DOCTOR'S office, a nurse is going to be the one administering meds to you or your kids, anyway. That's what they're trained to do. If you feel that way about nurses, then please never go to a hospital or any other healthcare institution.

    Way to make an enemy of every nurse on these comment boards.

    Also, it's an EPI-PEN. They're designed so that they can be administered by the common people.