KY lawmakers push for schools to stock epipens

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Reporter - Lauren Adams
Photojournalist - Justin Jones

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. - On the menu at Hendron Lone Oak Elementary on Thursday: shrimp bites.  But, peanut butter and jelly is just as popular.

But because of some students' allergies, some lunchrooms no longer allow peanut butter of any kind.

Mother Melanie Watson is not worried about peanuts, she worries about tree nuts like walnuts.  Her daughter, Savannah, is allergic.

"It's a scary experience when you feel helpless, there's nothing you can do," she said of the first time her daughter experienced an allergic reaction.

The 3rd grader, she says, broke out in hives in a matter of minutes.

"You just don't know if they're allergic to anything else. I'm glad we experienced it at home and not at school," she continued.

Under current Kentucky law, the school would not have been able to treat her daughter with an epipen if she had not supplied it.  Currently, only students whose parents bring in epipens with a doctor's note would receive help.

But, some Kentucky lawmakers are looking to change that.  The House recently cleared a bill that would allow schools to have epipens on hand that nurses could administer in case of an emergency.  On Thursday afternoon, that bill made its way to a senate committee.

Sara Hedges is the Food Service Director for McCracken County Schools. She says the district does the best they can when it comes to what is on the lunch line, thanks to information from parents.

"We keep that on record and do everything we can to accommodate that child's specific needs," she said, adding student safety was number one.

But Melanie Watson did not know her child had a specific need.  It's why she says passing this legislation is so crucial, "I think it could save a life."  

Epipens cost about $112 for a pack of two but there are programs that provide free epipens to schools. 

For now, the bill remains in the Education Committee of the Kentucky Senate.  That session comes to a close in a matter of days, and if no action is taken the bill would die.

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