Connecticut Families

Should school bus drivers be able to administer epinephrine when needed?

NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) - A bill allowing bus drivers to administer epinephrine to a child experiencing an allergic reaction just passed the House and is headed to the Senate. 

News 8 takes a look at the bill which advocates hope passes before end of the session on Wednesday.

"When you’re younger, you don’t get invited to birthday parties," explained Gianna Minicucci of North Haven. The 14-year-old and her sister Danielle, age 16 have nut allergies. 

Navigating the challenges of food allergies is a way of life. The family even has a peanut detecting dog. 

"Some people don’t understand but they're slowly beginning to understand," said Danielle.

One issue they say folks "don't get" is safety aboard school buses. 

Advocates are trying to pass a bill requiring drivers statewide to be trained in the use of an EpiPen, in case a child has an allergic reaction on the bus. 

Now, policies differ town to town. 

Pam Minicucci has a unique perspective as a bus driver and a food allergy mom. 

"People who don’t live in our world don’t realize what can happen," she said.  "It’s no different than someone pointing a gun to someone’s head, it’s that deadly."

Bus company DATTCO and COSTA, the Connecticut School Transportation Association, oppose the bill. 

DATTCO issued the following statement, on behalf of COSTA as well:

Like all pupil transportation companies in Connecticut, DATTCO’s first concern is the safe transportation of the children and passengers we carry. We are understanding of the spirit and good intention of this proposed regulation. That being said, school bus drivers respond to many difficult and challenging situations each day. Their jobs already carry enormous responsibilities. We believe that the most effective support a school bus driver can render in a health emergency is to immediately contact qualified emergency professionals, keep passengers calm, and secure the vehicle in a safe, non-traffic area until help arrives. Again, this is a complex issue which requires more examination before the current legislation is approved.

-Cliff Gibson, Chief Operating Officer, DATTCO, Inc.

 

But Minicucci says time is an issue. 

"That’s the crucial point where the outcome could be good or bad because you have to administer epinephrine immediately," she explained.

Opponents also say training could be expensive or complicated.  But, Minicucci believes the process to be simple and says, according to the bill, drivers would be trained through a free, online learning module.

"We have wide disparity in how schools manage food allergies.  We have discrimination which looks like exclusion," said Tricia Donovan of Southport who helped form a task force to make statewide rules and regulations at schools, in regards to food allergies. 

She says, if the bus bill doesn't pass, advocates won't give up.

"If the state is not going to do the right thing, we’ll go to the Department of Justice," said Donovan.

Similar laws have passed in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.


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