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NYSNYS NEWS: Parents of kids with life-threatening food allergies urge Assembly to pass bill permitting Epi-Pens without prescriptions in public venues such as parks, day care centers.
NYSNYS NEWS: Parents of kids with life-threatening food allergies urge Assembly to pass bill permitting Epi-Pens without prescriptions in public venues such as parks, day care centers.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 4) -- Parents of children with life-threatening food allergies urged the Assembly Wednesday to pass a bill to permit public venues like parks, sports arenas, stores and day care centers to have Epi-Pen emergency injectors on hand in case of an emergency.

"We all know that this is simple, that this can be life saving and this is something we should have across the state of New York," said Senator George Amedore (R-Schenectady County), who told of his son's frightening experience.

"My wife and I found out that our oldest at the age of 9 had an allergy that was life-threatening," Amedore said. "We almost lost our first born because of the allergy."

He spoke after a Long Island mother described her son's allergic reaction death in 2013 from accidentally eating peanuts.

"I would do everything in my power to help others not to walk in my shoes... (and) this bill would surely make for a safer place for all," said Georgina Cornago Cipriano, the mother of Giovanni Cipriano, 14, who died after suffering brain damage due to a massive allergic reaction to a peanut snack.

She said his death was "heart wrenching... but if it has taught me one thing, it is that I know I don't want anyone to know how I feel. I want to help advocate for everyone with food allergies. I want everyone to know that food allergies are not just serious, they are life threatening."

Rochester area Assemblyman Bill Nojay also spoke, telling of how he suddenly collapsed and nearly died from an allergic reaction to ampicillin he was prescribed by a doctor for a respiratory infection. He began going into shock within minutes of taking the pill and was saved by the quick response of the local rescue squad.

"I'm here as the color commentator because I am maybe the only member of the Legislature who has had epinephrine used on me," he said.

Epinephrine is another word for adrenalin, the hormone that boosts breathing, blood circulation and the body's metabolism. Epi-Pens are used as soon as possible after a food allergy reaction to keep someone from dying from anaphylactic shock. There is no cure for food allergies, just avoidance of trigger substances and quick action after exposure.

The bill is has passed the state Senate but has yet to clear the Assembly, though it was approved by the Health Committee on April 5. A spokesman for the main sponsor, Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti (D-Greenburgh) said the bill was slowly moving toward a vote and there appeared to be no opposition to the measure.

Under current law, Epi-Pens can only be dispensed and used with a doctor's prescription.

Advocates drew attention to the bill on Wednesday as part of the Allergy Advocacy Association's annually Albany lobbying day.

According to the Health Committee, the bill "authorizes public venues such as restaurants, youth organizations, theme parks, day cares, retail stores, and sports arenas to acquire and stock epinephrine auto-injectors (Epi-Pens), to be used by people with training to help individuals experiencing anaphylactic symptoms. The bill requires the organization to designate one or more trained persons to be responsible for storage, maintenance, and general oversight of the Epi-Pens."

The Legislature passed a similar bill in 2014 that mandated Epi-Pens in schools. The current bill does not include a similar mandate, but the expectation is that the medications will be kept for quick access just as AED heart defibrillators are now commonly found in public places.