South Dakota Is 50th State to Protect Students’ Rights to Carry and Self-Administer Asthma Medication
Grassroots Triumph for Advocates, Legislators, and Parents of Students Across the U.S.
FAIRFAX, VA, March 1, 2010–Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA), the leading national patient advocacy and education organization for people with asthma and related conditions, hails South Dakota lawmakers for making it the 50th and final state in America to establish laws protecting students’ rights to carry and self-administer their lifesaving asthma medication at school.
South Dakota’s law also enables children with anaphylaxis to carry and use auto-injectable epinephrine, making it the 45th state to protect students’ rights to carry and use anaphylaxis medication at school. Five states — Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin — remain without laws allowing students to carry and self-administer anaphylaxis medication.
“South Dakota’s legislation closes the last chapter on schools that can deny a child with asthma the right to carry and use prescribed lifesaving inhalers nationwide,” said Nancy Sander, founder and president of AANMA. “Our children grew up in an era in which no medications of any type were allowed on school premises except in a nurse’s office, which was usually locked and staffed by a volunteer parent or school secretary. Best of intentions will not save the life of a student who can’t breathe, whether the child is having an asthma attack or suffering anaphylaxis.”
“This law will make a big difference in the lives of a number of people in South Dakota,” said Sen. Sandy Jerstad of the South Dakota Senate. “I was contacted by a mother of a child with asthma who was not always allowed to keep her medication with her. Since then I’ve heard of similar situations in our state. I was happy to be part of an educational process that was very well-received in our legislature.”
“This is a common-sense piece of legislation,” said Rep. Timothy Rave of the South Dakota House of Representatives. “These children are more than qualified to administer this medication to themselves. Only one person knows how short of breath you are, and that’s the person themselves. These are safe medications that provide lifesaving treatment — the individual should have immediate access to them.”
“Breathing is a right, not a privilege,” said Sandra Fusco-Walker, AANMA’s director of advocacy. “Tragically, there are students who are no longer with us because they died at school as a result of policies preventing them immediate access to their lifesaving medications.”
“I believe by passing this bill, lives will be saved,” said Rae O’Leary, RRT, AE-C, a registered respiratory therapist and certified asthma educator in Timber Lake, S.D., an advocate who worked with AANMA to get the bill passed. “Before this, it was only a matter of time until a student took their last breath because of a delayed response to medication at school. That clock has now stopped ticking for students of South Dakota with asthma and allergies, because they will no longer have to wait for their lifesaving medications during an attack.”
A milestone for students with asthma
AANMA spearheaded the movement to make sure that every student in the U.S. could have their lifesaving medications handy at school.
“It was at AANMA’s 2003 Asthma Awareness Day Capitol Hill that Representatives Cliff Stearns, Patrick Kennedy, Joe Barton and Nita Lowey and Senators Mike DeWine and Ted Kennedy heard and responded to our plea for help on behalf of schoolchildren with asthma and anaphylaxis,” Sander said.
AANMA worked with these legislators to craft the Asthmatic Schoolchildren’s Treatment and Health Management Act, ASTHMA 2004, which would provide funding preferences to encourage states to enact laws that guarantee students with a history of asthma or anaphylaxis the right to carry and self-administer their prescribed medications. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2004.
“Our shouts of joy were quickly tempered by the enormous job in front of us — helping states create laws that were reasonable, responsible and medically sound,” Sander said. “And that’s just what AANMA has done with the support of our volunteers across the country, as well as organizations and corporations.”
“As a mom of three young children in the early ’90s, I became involved with AANMA because my daughter, Shannon, was not allowed to carry her inhaler with her at school or on the 30-minute bus ride to and from school,” said Fusco-Walker, who was instrumental in leading AANMA’s efforts to protect these rights for students. “Shannon had almost lost her life twice at the age of 5 and has required daily medications since that time. Immediate access to her lifesaving asthma inhaler is critical in an emergency, and it also gave Shannon a sense of confidence having her medication on hand. She is 23 today and can still vividly describe her terror when she suffered those attacks.”
“I’m very thankful to AANMA and Sandra Fusco-Walker, who testified for our committees by phone,” Jerstad said. “It must be very gratifying to now have all of our states included in this important piece of legislation.”
“We are proud of our South Dakota legislators for recognizing the importance of this bill and passing it unanimously,” O’Leary said. “We are also thankful to all the people and organizations that helped protect the rights of students with asthma and allergies.”
Up next: anaphylaxis
There are still five states without laws allowing students to carry and use anaphylaxis medication in school: Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. (These states do allow students to carry and use asthma medications at school.) AANMA is working with advocates and legislators in these states. To find out more and to support these efforts, visit AANMA’s Advocacy page: www.aanma.org/advocacy
Founded in 1985, Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics is the leading national nonprofit family organization dedicated to eliminating suffering and death due to asthma, allergies and related conditions. AANMA’s core areas of expertise are education, advocacy and outreach. The organization’s www.aanma.org website and award-winning publications, Allergy & Asthma Today magazine and The MA Report online newsletter, are consumer lifelines to medical news and healthy living.
Contact: Christie Chapman