Lawmakers Debate Over Requiring Epipens In Michigan Schools

By: Alyssa Fenske Email
By: Alyssa Fenske Email

LANSING (WILX)-- It's a bill that would help to protect kids with food allergies.

Michigan lawmakers are discussing House bill 4352 and 4352. The bills would require schools to carry two epinephrine injectors at all times. The hope is that unassigned injectors could be used in emergency allergy situations when no other medicine is present at the time.

On Monday the House Education Committee heard testimony from concerned parents, educators, and physicians.

"This is not a small problem isolated to a couple of kids," said M-of-U Allergy Professor, Dr. Matthew Greenhawt.

Currently more than six million children in the U-S have food allergies. According to Greenhawt, that's an average of two kids per classroom.

A severe reaction can be fatal, but immediate access to epinephrine can save a child's life. For some parents like, Lisa Rutter, founder of 'No Nuts Moms,' that's reason enough to require schools to have unassigned epinephrine injectors.

"My son just started kindergarten and he has life threatening food allergies. I teach him to not take anything, but if a chocolate chip cookies is offered to him he might take it, he's just a kid," said Rutter.

Rutter makes sure her son carries his epipen with him at all times, but more than 25% of allergic reactions happen without prior knowledge about the allergy. Right now, schools are only able to give medication to those who have been prescribed. Kids that have an allergic reaction and don't have the medicine, have to wait for 9-1-1 medical attention.

"You have a very small window when a reaction starts progressing," said Greenhawt. "You won't always have enough time to wait for an ambulance to reach the school."

When listening to testimony on Monday, the House Education Committee voiced some concerns. Under the bill, teachers would be mandated to take training classes on how to use the medicine, but mistakes could still be made.

Greenhawt tried to ease the concern; testifying that he's confident the medicine would be harmless if administered to a child not having an allergic reaction.

"It's just a shot of adrenaline. Nothing would happen except maybe bruising at the injection site and maybe 15 minutes of jitters," said Greenhawt.

An epipen can cost anywhere between $50-$200 dollars without insurance. If mandated schools will have several program options that could give them the medicine for free, or at a reduced rate.

The bills are still being discussed by the House Education Committee, and there's no word on if it will be voted on in the next session.


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