Teachers in public schools throughout the state would be able to give emergency injections of epinephrine to students suffering allergic reactions if a new policy proposed by the West Virginia Department of Education passes.
The new policy would put epinephrine auto-injectors called Epipens in public schools for trained faculty and staff to administer to anyone showing signs of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening, body-wide allergic reaction.
Current policy requires that only students prescribed by their doctors for Epipens may have them in schools. The auto-injectors contain both epinephrine and adrenaline and only a few school employees are trained to handle them.
Ohio County school nurse Melissa Soltesz handles an Epipen which injects epinephrine and adrenaline into the system to combat allergic reactions.
If the new policy goes forward, teachers, secretaries and other aides could train with school nurses to use the Epipens.
Brooke High School nurse Carol Cipoletti, who sits on the West Virginia Council of School Nurses as the RESA 6 representative, said the council is in charge of writing the new policy and presenting it to the department of education.
"I'm all for it because essentially we can save lives," Cipoletti said. "It's early treatment to prevent (allergy) problems from getting worse."
By January or February Cipoletti said she hopes the new policy will be written and approved so it can go into effect. Once it does, she said each county board of education will need to adopt their own policies to accommodate it.
Hancock County Superintendent Suzan Smith said schools in the county already include teachers and nurses trained to use Epipens on students who carry doctor orders for them. All the new policy would do is extend that to all students, she said.
"If the policy is passed we certainly would do everything we could to provide safety for our children," she said.
Ohio County Schools nurse Melissa Soltesz said the new auto-injectors would be an excellent pre-emptive measure against unexpected allergic reactions.
"When students come in to school, we don't know if they're allergic unless they tell us," Soltesz said. "We think this is a wonderful idea."
Soltesz said all school nurses in the state were indirectly involved in the policy change process after the state department of education distributed questionnaires a few weeks ago and they approved the idea.
The Epipen program would be sponsored by Mylan Laboratories through their EpiPen4Schools program, which sets each school in participating counties up with up to four Epipens for free. Started in August 2012, Mylan representatives said more than 20,000 schools have already taken advantage of this offer.