Lifesaving Shot

School board OKs plan to cope with deadly allergic reactions

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Twenty-five percent of the population has an undiagnosed potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reaction to allergies such as bee stings, so the Arizona state Legislature voted to allow schools to stock EpiPens in case of emergency.

However, the shots cost a lot of money. The state said it would pay for the pens if the budget allows, but made no promises.

So on Monday night, the Pay­son Unified School District (PUSD) board grappled with making a decision on stocking the potentially life-saving shots.

Superintendent Johnny Ketchem invited two PUSD nurses to discuss their findings with the board.

Nurses Linda Swartwood and Danny Hatch researched the issue because of the dangerous nature of the allergic reaction. Currently, school nurses stock EpiPens, but only for students who have a prescription. They presented their findings to the school board to clear up questions. Swartwood and Hatch found a local doctor who would agree to prescribe the pens, then discovered the Mylan Specialty Company’s offer to furnish free EpiPens to school districts across the nation.

Hatch heard of the program at a nurses’ convention. “They will give out free pens this year, but are not going to give out free EpiPens next year,” she said. “It would look like $2,000 (going forward).”

If a student goes into anaphylactic shock now, the nurses would be violating the law if they used a pen prescribed to another person.

Board members had more questions.

“In the policy it talks about training,” said Barbara Underwood. “Who is actually trained in it?”

Swartwood replied that they would train employees who need the instruction in accordance with existing policy. She said at the high school, Principal Brian Mabb has identified the attendance secretary as back up when the nurse is not available to give medications.

“We would train who is responsible for the EpiPens,” said Swartwood.

After hearing about the free initial cost and training plans, the Payson Unified School District board adopted the new policy in a 5 to 0 vote.

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