After an outcry by local doctors and parents, the Palo Alto school district will begin stocking its campuses with medication that can save a child from dying from a sudden allergic reaction.
School board members last week unanimously backed a policy change that would indemnify trained staff members who volunteer to administer emergency epinephrine auto-injectors -- or Epipens -- to a student experiencing a severe allergic reaction.
Until now, schools have stored only prescribed EpiPens supplied by parents for pre-identified children with asthma or other known allergies to be used in case of a serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which can be fatal.
The new policy clears the way for broader availability of the medication for any child in case of an emergency, with an opportunity for families to opt out if they so choose.
About a dozen people, including several physicians whose children attend local schools, implored the school board in April to begin stocking non-prescribed EpiPens on every campus. They said 25 percent of life-threatening allergic reactions that occur in schools come from undiagnosed allergies, in which cases school personnel must wait for emergency medical assistance or break the law by using an EpiPen prescribed for another child.
School district nurse Linda Lenoir said she plans to stock each of Palo Alto's 18 campuses with four non-prescription EpiPens, which she said are good for a year before expiration.
The indemnification of additional employees to administer EpiPens will not affect the district's liability premiums, district business officer Cathy Mak said. "I checked with...our liability insurance administrator plus our attorney and both said the risk is very minimal," Mak said. "Plus, we're already doing this now for students who have a prescription."
The local push to broaden EpiPen access at school followed President Barack Obama's signing last November of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Law, which offers financial incentives for schools to maintain supplies of the medication.