TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan that would expand the availability of EpiPens in the community and allow the administration of the life-saving drug by those who complete an approved educational program advanced through the Senate today.
Senator Whelan was joined on the Senate floor by Andrea Katz, from Chesterfield in Burlington County, and her 8-year-old son, Nathan, who suffers from a life-threatening allergy to peanuts. In her testimony before the Senate Health Committee in October in favor of the bill, she said that as her son grows older, more independent, and more involved in school clubs and sports, allowing individuals as coaches, club leaders, and police officers to administer epinephrine devices, provided they are properly trained, would give her peace of mind.
“When an individual is exposed to a life-threatening allergen, every second matters. Particularly when it comes to children, we have to make sure we are responding quickly to address the symptoms,” said Senator Whelan (D-Atlantic). “Allowing trained, non-medical professionals, such as coaches, to safely administer this life-saving drug can prevent a tragedy. It can also allow parents like Andrea to rest easier when sending their children to after-school activities and sports or to the playground.”
The bill, S-2884, also known as the “Epinephrine Access and Emergency Treatment Act,” would facilitate access to epinephrine auto-injector devices, used to treat symptoms of anaphylaxis, by persons who have completed and received a certificate of completion from an educational program approved by the Commissioner of Health. The educational programs would include training in the administration of epinephrine auto-injector devices, recognition of the symptoms of anaphylaxis, and safe maintenance and storage of the devices.
“As the incidence of allergies rises, we have to be prepared to deal with the consequences not only in our schools but across entire communities,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden, Gloucester). “The more individuals we allow to be trained and equipped in the administration of this life-saving medicine and device, the more tragedies we can prevent.”
Under the bill, health care professionals would be authorized to prescribe and dispense an epinephrine auto-injector device, either directly or through a standing order, to any person authorized to administer, maintain, and dispose of the device. An entity employing the person would be authorized to obtain, maintain, and make available to the person epinephrine auto-injector devices consistent with such standards and protocols as the commissioner may establish by regulation.
The bill would also provide immunity from civil and professional liability for health care professionals for prescribing or dispensing an epinephrine auto-injector device, as well as civil liability immunity to those authorized to administer the device for administering it in good faith and without fee to a person who appears to be suffering from anaphylaxis or any other serious condition treatable with epinephrine. Further, the bill would provide that “good faith” does not include willful misconduct, gross negligence, or recklessness.
Under current law, public and nonpublic schools must maintain in a secure but unlocked and easily accessible location a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors. Also, non-medical professionals in K-12 educational settings and institutions of higher education in New Jersey are permitted to administer the drug.
The bill cleared the Senate with a vote of 35-0. It cleared Assembly with a vote of 77-0. The bill now heads to the Governor.