Legislation Helps Students Avert Potentially Life Threatening Emergencies
Aiming to ensure New Jersey students with adrenal insufficiency disorders have quick access to necessary medication should they experience a hormone deficiency in school, legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin to allow students to self-administer their medication if needed was recently approved 77-0-0 by the full Assembly.
“For a student with an adrenal insufficiency disorder, if their body on any given day doesn’t produce enough steroid hormones they can find themselves suffering from hypoglycemia, dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting or lose consciousness,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “In some cases these symptoms can lead to life-threatening situations. With this bill, students will be able to carry and administer their own medication to ensure they are prepared for an emergency.”
The bill (A-4799) would require a school district or nonpublic school to permit the self-administration of medication by a student for adrenal insufficiency, provided they meet the same conditions as a student permitted to administer medication for asthma or other potentially life-threatening illnesses or allergic reactions. The student would be permitted to carry the medication at all times, provided that he does not endanger himself or others through misuse.
School districts and nonpublic schools would be required to develop a policy for emergency administration of hydrocortisone sodium succinate medication through appropriate delivery devices and equipment for students with adrenal insufficiencies. Similar to current law for emergency administration of epinephrine for students with anaphylaxis, parents or guardians would provide written authorization and submit written certification from a student’s physician or advanced practice nurse that the student requires administration of the medication for adrenal insufficiency. Under the policy, the district or nonpublic school would be required to inform the parents or guardians that it will incur no liability arising from the administration of medication, and the parents or guardians must sign a statement in acknowledgement of such. The pupil’s prescribed hydrocortisone sodium succinate must be placed in a secure but unlocked location to ensure prompt availability in the event of an emergency situation at school or at a school-sponsored function.
“No parent wants to send their child to school worrying if they won’t have access to the medication they need if a problem arises,” said Speaker Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Parents and students alike can find comfort in knowing the child is carrying exactly what they need to diffuse an emergency with them at all times, and they’ll be able to take the medication on their own.”
The issues surrounding adrenal insufficiency were brought to the attention of Assemblywoman Lopez and Speaker Coughlin by one of their constituents, Sayreville resident Janet Misiur, whose daughter has the disease. When her daughter wanted to play on her school’s basketball team at 13 years old, she was told she wouldn’t be allowed to play unless her parents and a school nurse would be at every practice and game to ensure someone would be there to administer her medication if needed. Her daughter often felt singled out for her illness, which compelled Misiur to contact her legislators and take action.
Misiur testified at a recent Assembly Education Committee meeting in support of the bill.
“I feel like this is finally going to help my daughter and other children with this,” said Misiur. “They’re not going to have to go through all these walls and have these boundaries. They can feel like they’re not that different.”
Dina Matos, Executive Director of the Cares Foundation based in Union, Union County, joined Misiur in testifying in support of the legislation. Some EMS squads are not trained to administer adrenal insufficiency medication and don’t carry it in ambulances, she said, making permission to self-administer all the more important.
“If they are ill or injured, they often need a rescue medication to prevent an adrenal crisis or to recover from an adrenal crisis,” said Matos. “It is a matter of life or death. Getting that injection within 15 or 20 minutes can mean the difference between life, disability and death. We’re thrilled the Assembly has introduced this bill.”
“This bill is long overdue,” said Benson (Middlesex, Mercer). “It is a tool that can help students thrive just as their peers.”
Additionally, the bill specifies that no school employee, or any other officer or agent of the school district or nonpublic school, will be held liable for any good faith act or omission consistent with the provisions of the bill, nor will an action before the New Jersey State Board of Nursing lie against a school nurse for any action taken by a person designated in good faith by the school nurse.
The measure now heads to full Senate for further consideration.