TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman, Senator Shirley K. Turner, which will enhance diabetes care for public school students in New Jersey, was signed into law yesterday by Governor Corzine.
“Diabetes is a disease that can be controlled, but only through monitoring and proper treatment,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “For students living with diabetes, this becomes difficult, as parents are unavailable to help them control their disease during school hours, and, while some older students can manage the disease on their own, many younger students need assistance. Through this new law, parents will now be able to work with school health personnel to make sure that their kids get the care they need to manage their diabetes.”
The bill, S-2426, requires that a parent or guardian of a student with diabetes who seeks specialized diabetes care while that student is in school be able to inform the school nurse of the student’s specialized needs. The nurse would then be required to develop and maintain an individualized health care plan – as well as an individualized emergency care plan – for the student, contingent on the parent’s annual authorization of the administration of care. The plan must include specific information about the student’s particular form of hypoglycemia, recommended treatment, the frequency of blood glucose testing, written orders from the student’s physician or another medical professional for the dosage and administration of insulin if necessary, times for meals and snacks, any restrictions on the student’s participation in sports and exercise, and accommodations for class trips.
“By opening the channels of communication between school nurses and parents regarding their students’ personalized diabetes care plans, we can ensure a seamless care model between the home and public schools,” said Senator Turner. “Communication is key to making sure that care plans are followed and meet the specific needs of the students in need.”
The bill also provides that the school nurse would have the primary responsibility for the emergency administration of glucagon to a student with diabetes experiencing severe hypoglycemia, and would have the responsibility for training any other school personnel who volunteers to administer glucagon in an emergency. Acute hypoglycemia can occur in persons with uncontrolled, insulin-dependent diabetes, and left untreated, can result in brain damage, seizures, coma and even death.
“Some schools just don’t have the resources to keep a school nurse on site full time, and in those situations, emergency care provisions have to be in place for students with diabetes,” said Senator Turner. “With the onset of severe hypoglycemia, time is of the essence, and life-saving medications have to be administered immediately to avoid long-term health complications. Whether it’s being administered by a trained school nurse or a medically-trained volunteer, glucagon injections can mean the difference between life and death for students feeling the effects of hypoglycemia.”
Finally, the bill requires the school district to notify the student’s bus driver of the student’s diabetic needs, as well as provide parental contact information for students with diabetes to bus drivers, and requires the district to post an information sheet about the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia in designated areas of school buildings.
The bill received final legislative approval from both houses of the Legislature in June.