Three weeks after I launched Nut Free Wok, I also co-founded California Advocates for Food Allergies with some very good friends. We set to work immediately to support SB 1266 when Senator Bob Huff introduced legislation to update California’s existing stock epi law, requiring all public and charter schools to stock epinephrine and train school staff to recognize anaphylaxis. SB 1266 will save lives and is an important legislation that will raise food allergy awareness and prepare schools to respond to anaphylaxis.
A Life Lost, A Life Saved
At the April 2 Education Committee hearing, two parents shared their incredible stories of a life lost and a life saved. Joanne Giorgi’s moving testimony about Natalie’s tragic death touched each person in the room deeply as voices were cracking with emotions and tears were flowing. Mark Lohman expressed how proud he was of his son’s graduation, wedding, and fatherhood but none of that would have been possible without Cathy Owens breaking the law to use another student’s epinephrine to save his son. Dr. Travis Miller, a Sacramento allergist was very informative about allergies and anaphylaxis and he invited his patient to share how anaphylaxis feels and how epinephrine has saved her life many times.
After all the testimonies were shared, members of the public expressed their support, and the opposition had their say, I was so relieved when Senator Wyland expressed his support for the bill because he had experienced anaphylaxis as a young man while undergoing immunotherapy (allergy shots). All of the senators voted unanimously to support the bill which allowed it to go to the next committee, the Senate Health Committee.
To view the entire hearing, including support from the public (including me) as well as comments from the opposition: Click here, Senator Huff begins speaking at 1:18:45, Joanne Giorgi at 1:21:30, Dr. Miller at 1:26:00, and Mark Lohman at 1:31:00
Challenge: Can California Lead the Nation with Stock Epi and Save Lives?
I attended the Health Committee hearing on April 24th. Senator Huff began his speech by demonstrating how easy it is to administer an Auvi-Q and then outlined his reasons to support the bill. Dr. Kari Nadeau, allergist and food allergy researcher from Stanford’s Food Allergy Food Sensitivity Center gave a very strong speech in support of SB 1266 by stating very clearly that anaphylaxis can kill in as little as 6 minutes and prompt administration of epinephrine is essential, safe, and life-saving. Her presentation would be informative to other states considering mandatory stock epinephrine as well as to schools and other organizations considering epinephrine and anaphylaxis related policies.
Even though Cathy Owens, the southern California school nurse who was responsible for saving Mark Lohman’s son, is an amazing advocate and the reason for our current stock epi law, she briefly mentioned what happened 14 years ago. She talked about how there is not one school that doesn’t already have a student with known allergies and anaphylaxis and changing the law would not change the role and responsibilities of schools significantly. She emphasized that schools must keep children safe, that there are no contra-indications for using epinephrine, and it is essential to have immediate access. Required stock epi in schools would just help schools to be better prepared and provide immediate access to life saving medication. Again, Dr. Miller was on hand to express his strong support as an allergist with excellent points as well as having his patient, Christopher, describe how anaphylaxis feels like.
My friends and I were so glad when a 5th senator arrived, enough for a quorum and for a vote and we were delighted when Senator Beall expressed his strong support that this bill will be a money saving preventative health care measure. And we were overjoyed when the senators voted unanimously in favor of the bill and the bill moves on to the Judiciary Committee on April 29th when liability and other legal issues will be considered.
To watch the entire hearing, you can see that many organizations support this bill: Click here, Senator Huff begins speaking at 31:00, Dr. Nadeau at 36:00, Cathy Owens at 39:45, Dr. Miller at 44;10.
Knowing the Opposition
Kendra Harris from the California Federation of Teachers expressed strong concern regarding classified employees being responsible for administration of epinephrine and that there should be more funding for nurses to be responsible for the administration of epinephrine. As a former teacher, I find the reasons for the opposition to be very disappointing. My personal opinion is that teachers can’t teach and students can’t learn if children are not safe from life threatening conditions such as anaphylaxis. Furthermore, I am certain that no teacher would want a student to die or be seriously injured as a result of anaphylaxis while on their watch. Anaphylaxis is frightening even when armed with an epi and knowledge but absolutely terrifying without. This bill is essential for creating a safe learning environment. I do hope that teachers who understand life threatening allergies will speak up and advocate on behalf of SB 1266.
“Anaphylaxis is frightening even when armed with an Epi and knowledge but absolutely terrifying without.”
Next steps: Advocate on April 28
The Judiciary Committee will hear SB 1266 on April 29. We have one business day to advocate and ask the Judiciary Committee senators to support and vote yes for the bill. It is important to point out that there is bipartisan support for Senator Huff’s bill because Senator Jerry Hill is also a co-sponsor. We need everyone to ask their state senator to co-sponsor the legislation. There are many reasons to save a life:
- Anaphylaxis can kill in 6 minutes
- Immediate access and administration of epinephrine is essential
- There are no contraindications, even when used when epinephrine is not needed
- Students must be safe in schools
- 50% of first time reactions take place away from home
- 25% of allergic reactions requiring epi at school are due to previously unknown life threatening allergies to food, latex, insect stings, medicine, etc.
- Food allergies are an emerging epidemic, rates have doubled in the last 14 years
- There is no known cause and no known cure for food allergies
- 1 in 13 children have food allergies, approximately 2 children in every classroom
- Mandatory stock epinephrine in CA schools will allow our state to compete for federal asthma grant money
Many thanks to Senator Huff and his office for authoring and all their hard work to enact SB 1266 and Senator Hill for co-sponsoring the bill. I am amazed by all the heartfelt advocacy by the Giorgi and Lohman families, the medical experts, and concerned individuals.
We will save lives and make a difference together.
For more information on how to support SB 1266 #epipenbill, please visit California Advocates for Food Allergies: