Bill looks to expand Epi-Pen availability

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Lamont Jones says it was his mother’s idea.

The basketball counselor working with the City of Harrisburg summer recreation and L.O.O.P. program remembers how a recent bee sting sent him to the emergency room. He now keeps a pack of Epi-Pens in his car.

“I didn’t know. I’m allergic to bees. I had no clue,” says Jones. “Until I was stung, and the reaction was crazy. I broke out in hives, my breathing was labored. I guess it was slowing my heart down. And from that point on, my mother was telling me to carry these Epi-Pens.”

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Jones, who spends weekday evenings on the court at 4th and Emerald street with dozens of youth, says he hopes none of the kids ever experience the same anaphylaxis that he did. However, while his personal prescription allows Jones to use his automatic epinephrine injector on himself, state law currently prohibits summer camps from obtaining epi-pens for their first aid kits.

While Jones says recreation organizers require participants to disclose allergy information during registration, his own experience proves that many people are not aware of their allergies to stinging insects or foods such as nuts. He believes having an epi-pen on hand could save a child in an emergency.

“It could save your life. It will give you time to get to the hospital,” he adds.

State Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) says there are stories just like Jones’ all across the commonwealth. Baker is the primary sponsor of House Bill 1351, which aims to expand epi-pen availability to entities such as summer recreation camps, universities, day care centers, sports arenas and amusement parks.

“Having epi-pens available is no different than schools and other facilities having AEDs in the case of a cardiac emergency,” said Baker. “Allergic reactions can happen very suddenly, and epi-pens that are administered quickly can save lives.”

The bill, which passed the House unanimously earlier this year, moved on to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, according to Baker. He describes the bill as an expansion of a previous law passed last year that allowed schools to carry a stock of epi-pens to administer to students or staff suffering a severe allergic reaction. Baker says the legislature’s focus on the state budget could delay any further action until at least fall.

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