Sometimes simple measures can make a world of difference. Last year, the state legislature passed—and the governor signed—legislation that allows Ohio school districts to stock epinephrine, commonly known as epi-pens, on site. Epinephrine is a medication that helps combat allergic reactions, such as to food, which can sometimes be undiagnosed or undetected until such a reaction occurs. At those times, it is important that schools are prepared.
The work that went into getting this done actually required years of work. Although the idea and the intention behind the concept were worthy and just, it was important that legislators devoted a substantial amount of time studying the issue of how these allergies can best be treated, especially when a child is away from home.
What resulted after several hours of testimony and working with parents, local leaders and school officials was House Bill 296, sponsored by Reps. Mike Duffey of the Columbus area and Terry Johnson of southern Ohio. I was proud to cosponsor the legislation, along with several others in the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle. Again, while the mission of the bill is pretty straightforward, ensuring that it was ready to be implemented took a lot more time.
The legislation, I am happy to say, has already made a life-saving difference for a couple of Ohio’s students. Two kids in the same Akron school district suffered potentially fatal reactions caused by food allergies. Because the school had been properly stocked with epi-pen auto-injectors, the children’s lives were saved. While we would all prefer that these situations not occur in the first place, it is comforting to know that Ohio’s schools are now better equipped for when they do.
Prior to House Bill 296 being signed last year, only students with epinephrine prescriptions were permitted to have epi-pens stocked in schools. Now, with the allowance of extra epi-pens being stored in school buildings, the life-saving protections they provide are afforded to more students. With a new school year now underway, I like to think that this legislation can give greater peace of mind to students and their families.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.