PUBLISHED: July 23, 2009
Governor inks student health bill at Ham Ave
Ken Borsuk | The Greenwich Post | Link to article
Calling it a way to give parents "a little bit of peace of mind," Gov. M. Jodi Rell officially signed into law a bill requiring the state's Department of Education to develop guidelines making it easier for children to have access to medicine for extreme allergic reactions.
Ms. Rell signed Senate Bill 755 after a short ceremony last Thursday at Hamilton Avenue School. The bill, which was co-sponsored by state Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36), requires the state to develop regulations governing the administration of medication used to treat severe allergies, such as those to peanuts and bee stings. These guidelines allow students to self-administer prescription medication such as asthma inhalers and automatic epinephrine injectors, known as "epipens," and for licensed athletic trainers to be added to the list of school personnel authorized to give students medicine prescribed by a doctor or medical professional.
Before the bill was signed, Connecticut had been one of only three states in the country without a set protocol for administration of inhalers and one of only 10 without a policy for epipen shots. While the state's Department of Education has had the power to set up rules and regulations, the approved bill requires those be posted and be part of a school's policy.
"For those of us who are parents and, yes, those of us who are grandparents, we all have that same feeling," Ms. Rell said. "We can't help but worry about our children. No matter how old they get to be, we worry about them. That's even more true for those of us who have children who are allergic to bee stings or specific foods or may be asthmatic. You're always wondering if they're all right and if they're prepared."
Ms. Rell set up the hypothetical situation in which a child is stung by a bee and the nurse's office is on the other side of the school. With time of the essence, the governor said the bill will allow children who have experience treating their own allergies the ability to help treat themselves instead of having to wait.
"Moments really do make the difference in treating sometimes life-threatening conditions and in too many cases, the current policy means that when they're in the throes of an attack they would have to wait," Ms. Rell said. "We just don't want that to have to happen. We need to do everything we can to protect the health and safety of our students and that includes those who have to cope with this every single day."
Ms. Rell, who said she was "honored and pleased" to be signing the bill into law, added that having a written protocol in place will also help teachers and principals because then they will know who has permission to do this and what exactly will happen if they need treatment.
In remarks before the bill was signed, Mr. Frantz, a Riverside resident, said this was a "monumental" change in school policy in regard to child health and safety.
"There will be a collective sigh of relief that you can hear throughout the entire state, especially amongst the parents," Mr. Frantz said, praising Ms. Rell for "seeing the wisdom" in the bill as soon as it hit her desk.
Ms. Rell called it "common sense legislation" and Mr. Frantz said he was just happy to have helped a good bill get through the difficult legislative process.
"One of the great pleasures of being in the business of holding a public office is actually working on a bill that is successful," he said. "Most are not. The odds are against you. Roughly 4,000 to 4,500 bills are proposed each year and it's a small percentage, maybe a couple hundred, that make it through the gauntlet."
Mr. Frantz joined several of his fellow legislators at the signing with Ms. Rell. State Reps. Livvy Floren (R-149) and Lile Gibbons (R-150) from Greenwich were at the ceremony, as was former state Rep. Claudia "Dolly" Powers. Local officials present included First Selectman Peter Tesei, town Director of Health Caroline Calderone Baisley, Superintendent of Schools Sidney Freund and school member Steven Anderson.