EpiPen legislation for California schools advances

dsiders@sacbee.comApril 2, 2014 

A bill to increase the prevalence of emergency epinephrine auto-injectors, or EpiPens, in California schools would not have helped Natalie Giorgi, who died from an allergic reaction after biting into a Rice Krispies treat at Camp Sacramento last year.

The 13-year-old girl died despite receiving epinephrine.

But Natalie’s mother, Joanne Giorgi, told lawmakers Wednesday that access to the medication could help other children.

“You will save a life,” she told the Senate Education Committee, which voted without dissent to move the bill forward.

Senate Bill 1266, by Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, would require school districts to give EpiPens to trained personnel to provide emergency medical aid to anyone suffering from a severe allergic reaction. The bill would expand existing law, which allows – but does not require – school districts to stock the medicine.

The proposed legislation is supported by health care and allergy groups, but it is opposed by the California Teachers Association, the California School Employees Association and the California Federation of Teachers.

The CTA said in a letter that it worried about “the potential for probationary or temporary educators and/or classified employees to be ‘highly encouraged’ to become trained in administering medication against their will.”

Dolores Duran-Flores, a lobbyist for the California School Employees Association, suggested her organization’s concerns about responsibilities the bill may foist on school employees could be addressed through amendments, as did a critical senator, Ben Hueso, who said he would give initial support to the measure despite a litany of concerns.

“The problem I have with this specific issue is that we are asking personnel that’s not medically trained to make a diagnosis,” said Hueso, D-San Diego.

The dispute is reminiscent of a fight in 2011 over a bill letting school districts allow non-medical school employees who volunteer and receive training to administer anti-seizure medication to epileptic students. Labor unions argued that schools should employ more nurses and that it is inappropriate to ask non-medical employees to administer the drug.

The anti-seizure medication bill, also by Huff, was ultimately approved.

In an interview, Giorgi said the EpiPen legislation “just seems like a step that we can take to just protect our children.”

She suggested that other people could better speak to the opposition raised by labor.

“I’m a mom,” she said, “and not a politician.”

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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