Bills hope to expand access to epinephrine auto-injectors in day cares, private schools

AUVI-Q is a prescription medicine used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions (Courtesy Amanda Brandeis)
AUVI-Q is a prescription medicine used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions (KXAN Photo/Amanda Brandeis)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For children with serious food allergies, getting them life-saving medicine in an emergency is critical. In 2015, Texas lawmakers passed a law allowing that medicine, epinephrine, to be readily available in schools. While not required, schools are encouraged to make unassigned epinephrine auto-injectors available on campus and at off-campus school events. The bill also included liability protections for physicians, pharmacists and school districts.

Since the bill passed, Dr. Allen Lieberman says it’s already saved lives in Texas. Lieberman is an allergist with Austin Family Allergy & Asthma. Now he’s advocating for two different bills filed this session that would expand access to children even further, to day cares and private schools.

“We liken this to a fire extinguisher or a defibrillator, that it’s there just in case of an emergency, and anyone can use it. That’s what the bill is trying to do,” said Lieberman.

Senate Bill 579 adds private schools to the bill passed during the 2015 legislative session. This includes oversight from the Health and Human Services Commission, along with training, reporting requirements, prescription authority and legal liability protection.

With Senate Bill 1101, pharmacists can dispense epinephrine auto-injectors to day cares. Each facility would be responsible for training staff on how to administer the drug.

“We have so many children with undiagnosed food allergies,” said Lieberman. “This is what that’s trying to protect.”

Austin ISD mother Kaci Goodman says it’s a bill she supports. She credits the law passed in 2015 to saving her son’s life.

“I was just in math class, a regular day, and I had a couple cashews, which I never knew I was allergic to,” said her 12-year-old son Rocco. “I ate a couple and my throat started swelling up, my face was getting red, I was feeling really bad.”

Kaci says her son had eaten cashews in the past, so the severe reaction came out of nowhere.

A school nurse recognized what was happening and administered an EpiPen to treat Rocco. Paramedics later credited the school nurse with saving Rocco’s life.

“Thank goodness they had the EpiPen, because who knows,” said Kaci.

On April 18, advocates with Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) will gather at the Texas Capitol in support of the bills.

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