By Brad Fulton – Capital News Service
Gov. Bob McDonnell signed two bills Thursday requiring schools to stock and administer epinephrine, a drug that could save students having a severe allergic reaction.
McDonnell signed House Bill 1107, sponsored by Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, a Republican from Potomac Falls, and Senate Bill 656, introduced by Sen. Donald McEachin, a Democrat from Richmond.
The measures require schools to adopt plans to have epinephrine available for emergencies. Only a school nurse or other trained school employee could administer the drug.
The state budget passed last week allocated $200,000 to public schools to buy epinephrine injectors, commonly called EpiPens.
The legislation was introduced in January after 7-year-old Amarria Johnson, a student at Hopkins Elementary School in Chesterfield County, went into cardiac arrest from a peanut allergy and died.
“This legislation and the money in the recently passed budget will help prevent another tragedy like Amarria Johnson’s from occurring in a public school in the commonwealth,” McDonnell said. “Having a plan in place and access to epinephrine in schools, where children spend half their day, is critical.”
Amarria’s mother, Laura Pendleton, attended the bill signing ceremony. Also present were state legislators, pediatricians and representatives of the Food Allergy Network.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among school-aged children increased 18 percent between 1997 and 2007. Additionally, a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that nearly 25 percent of allergic reactions in schools occur in children who were previously undiagnosed.
State education officials plan to draft guidelines for the possession and administration of epinephrine by July 1. Local school boards must implement their policies beginning with the 2012-2013 school year.