Officials in DuPage County, Illinois have launched a fund raising effort to equip officers with life-saving stock epinephrine auto-injectors following the passage of a state law allowing first responders to carry the drug. The estimated cost for the 100 devices needed is $40,000.
“We’re going to be seeking donations from private entities and reaching out to companies like CVS, Mariano’s and even some hospital groups,” County Board member Peter DiCianni said. “It’s to protect the 1 in 13 kids born with this condition. You’re talking tens of thousands of children here in DuPage County alone.”
“Stock” epinephrine refers to doses of the drug that are not prescribed to any one individual and may be used by trained individuals in case anaphylaxis is suspected. Anaphylaxis is a severe, sometimes life-threatening reaction to a food or insect venom.
“Twenty-five percent of the severe and potentially life-threatening reactions reported at schools happen to children with no previous diagnosis of a food allergy,” said Karen Ayala, health department executive director. “According to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], the early use of epinephrine to treat anaphylaxis improved the person’s chance of survival and quick recovery. When given by injection, it rapidly improves breathing, increases heart rate and reduces swelling.”
Illinois’ Epinephrine Auto-Injector Act was enacted on August 5, allowing emergency personnel to carry and administer the drug. The legislation was passed due to the efforts of Shelly LeGere, the mother of Annie, a teen who succumbed to anaphylaxis in 2015 during a sleepover at a friend’s house. By the time LeGere arrived, a police officer was on the scene but had no epinephrine on hand.
“Nine days later, my little girl passed away in my arms,” LeGere said. “I decided that I wasn’t going to just let this go, so we started a foundation called To the Moon and Back. Our goal was to do whatever we could so that first responders would be able to carry epinephrine auto-injectors.”
Sheriff’s deputies already carry Narcan, a drug used to counter the effects of opioid overdoses.
“Every one of our squad cars now carries Narcan and this is exactly what we’re doing with EpiPens,” Sheriff John Zaruba said. “And it’s not just kids, it’s adults too and I’m one of the victims of that. I carry my EpiPen wherever I go.”
“I want to challenge every single law enforcement agency in the state of Illinois to be like DuPage County, to find the resources and get this done with donations and not tax funding,” he said. “We’re people helping people, and that’s how government should work.”
We at SnackSafely.com share Sheriff Zaruba’s view that every first responder should be provided stock epinephrine, ready to use in case of emergency. But while we fully appreciate and applaud his efforts, we take issue with his comment that getting “this done with donations and not tax funding” is “how government should work.”
We respectfully disagree. Because the drug is life-saving, we do not believe the determining factor in whether auto-injectors are carried by first responders should be whether a county is able or willing to raise sufficient funds on behalf of its citizens.
Instead, stock epinephrine should be funded by state or national initiatives and paid for using taxes to ensure that all emergency personnel are equipped with and carry the drug. Localities should not have to rely on the dedication of their officials – like that of Sheriff Zaruba – to protect the populace they serve.
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