The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed a law allowing a school worker to administer life-saving medication to a child having a seizure in school. House Bill 76, the Seizure Safe Schools Act, is sponsored by State Representative Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, and co-sponsored by Representative David Wheeler, R-Vestavia. HB76 was brought to the Senate by Senator Billy Beasley, D-Clayton.
“I applaud state legislators for approving the safe school foreclosure legislation,” said Sara Franklin, executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation Alabama. “Our organization looks forward to working with the State Department of Education and local school boards to provide crisis training for school staff and school nurses.”
Beasley explained that the bill allows for the administration of medication by volunteer medication assistants to save the life of a child having a seizure.
Senator Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said: “We should have nurses in schools. The money is there.
Beasley said that “only 70 to 75 percent of our schools have nurses.”
“If we do this, we’ll never have nurses,” Smitherman said. “It would cost $ 36 million to put nurses in every school. ”
Beasley explained, “The legislature has already authorized physician assistants to administer insulin and Narcan in the event of an overdose. It has a safe and easy applicator like with Narcan.
Smitherman insisted that “the money is there to have nurses.” He wanted to talk to the Alabama superintendent of education. “We are spending money everywhere else,” he said.
Beasley said “unlicensed drug assistants will receive training from the Alabama Epilepsy Foundation.”
Smitherman said, “If we go to a lottery, we’re not going to play the game in our lifetime; if we do that, then they won’t hire school nurses.
“The state superintendent is crazy about school nurses,” said Smitherman, demanding that state superintendent Eric Mackey come to the Senate to explain why there had not been a request for full funding for school nurses in its education budget request. The education budget for fiscal year 2022 was the largest in state history, with significantly increased funding for a number of state education priorities.
Beasley said there are rural systems with a school nurse and three or four campuses. “If a child has a seizure, there may be no way he can arrive in time to give him medicine,” he said. “All we’re trying to do is provide medicine for a child who is having a seizure. ”
Smitherman told the Senate: “Don’t insult my intelligence by saying we don’t have the money to do it (hire more school nurses).”
Senator Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, proposed an amendment that if a school nurse is on duty, then the nurse will administer the treatment rather than the unlicensed medication assistant. This amendment was rejected by the Senate.
Singleton then proposed an amendment that shared a list of people who are allowed to administer medication in school to the parent of a child who has been diagnosed as needing medication. This list of unauthorized medication assistants would also be on the school’s website.
Senator Tim Melson, R-Florence, a physician, said: “During a crisis, oxygen is quickly depleted in the brain. The faster this help can arrive, it is essential.
“I commend you for bringing this bill forward,” Melson told Beasley.
Beasley said: “This is a controlled drug so it is kept under lock and key.”
Senator Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, told Beasley: “We are totally for what you are trying to do.”
“These are emergency use situations where time is running out,” Beasley said.
Smitherman asked how much the drug costs. Beasley replied that the cost of the drug is $ 700.
Beasley said: “Seizures are caused by not receiving the right nerve impulses or receiving too many impulses. The drug relaxes the nerve. The drug itself is diazepam.
The diazepam comes in an easy-to-use applicator and is already in the correct dosage.
Sense. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, who chairs the Senate Health Committee; Jabo Wagoner, R-Vestavia, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee; and Singleton supported Smitherman’s demands that the Alabama State Department of Education appropriate American Rescue Act dollars to address the shortage of school nurses.
That a growing number of schools in Alabama do not have school nurses and that the State Department of Education, which supports this legislation, seems to accept institutionalization of this development, has upset some members. of the Alabama Association of School Nurses. Kristine McClary is the legislative liaison with AASN.
“While the AASN supported training anyone in the education system on crises on how best to help a student, I think the misconception was that students were not receiving care in schools for them. crises, ”McClary said. “Today, if a student has a diastat order, a nurse is available during the day and at school sponsored events. The delegation removed nurses from this equation and replaced them with an unlicensed non-medical person. ”
“This fact has not really been brought to light by the sponsors of this legislation,” said McClary. “The unexpected silver lining in this very controversial process – was that for several hours the Senate could hear about the need for school nurses in every school. That federal dollars were available and yet leadership actions (or lack thereof) resulted in schools still without nurses, without running water in nurses’ offices, without the very basic needs of a health office – despite hundreds of millions of dollars available to remedy the situation. We are very grateful to Senators Smitherman, Singleton, McClendon and Wagoner for doing all they can to ensure that every school has a nurse – every day – available for every student.
There was a late-night meeting with the Alabama State Department of Education in Wagoner’s office in which ASDE assured senators that a portion of the dollars from the American Rescue Act that have been assigned to schools to fight the global COVID-19 pandemic would be allocated to fund school nurses to have a licensed LPN on the staff of each public school.
Smitherman introduced an amendment to require all schools to hire a full-time registered school nurse. This amendment was adopted and the bill was adopted as amended 29-0.
The bill is now returning to the House for consideration of the changes made in the Senate. Thursday was the 29th day of the 2021 legislative session.