Lansing — Every public school in Michigan would have to have special injectors to treat allergic reactions under measures moving forward in the Legislature.
The House on Wednesday voted 96-10 and 106-0 for bills requiring schools by next year to have two epinephrine devices, or EpiPens, and allowing doctors and pharmacies to prescribe and dispense them to schools boards. The legislation now heads to the Senate.
Many children with severe allergies bring EpiPens to school. But supporters of the bills say a quarter of anaphylactic shock incidents in schools occur among students unaware they have an allergy.
Without a dose of epinephrine to stop reactions to peanuts or bee stings, kids can die.
“Minutes matter when it comes to allergies, and I think it’s really important that our kids are safe when they’re in our schools,” said Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, an Alto Republican and sponsor of the bills.
The retail cost of a two-pack of EpiPens is $280, according to testimony in a recent committee hearing.
Schools could qualify for free EpiPens through a program being offered by a pharmaceutical company. The legislation was amended on the House floor to say if school boards cannot obtain EpiPens through private funding or programs, they can ask the state to reimburse them.
The measure says the Legislature “shall” appropriate money for EpiPen reimbursements.
School employees who use an EpiPen in good faith would be shielded from lawsuits unless they act with gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct. School districts would have to train one or two employees to administer the medicine depending on a school’s size.
The U.S. House in July passed legislation that would give grant preferences to states that come up with policies to make epinephrine available in schools. Twenty-seven states either require or permit school districts to stock the drug.
Nine Republicans and one Democrat in the GOP-controlled Michigan House voted against the bill that would require schools to be stocked with EpiPens starting in the 2014-15 academic year.
Rep. Bill Rogers, a Brighton Republican who chairs the House budget subcommittee for K-12 funding, questioned why EpiPens should be required instead of being optional since free EpiPens are available from EpiPen marketer Mylan Specialty. He expressed concern about a potential unfunded mandate.
“Do (schools) go out and really try to hustle those private funds or do (they) fail to pay it and say, ‘State, pay for it?’ ” Rogers said. “I’d like some more answers before I come up with my definitive answer.”