BOB CONFER: Authorize more people to use EpiPen

Bob Confer

Forest rangers are the first responders in the most remote places of New York. Miles from roads, back in the wild, they are the souls who trudge through forests, streams, mud and snow to administer first aid, console those in crisis, and bring out the injured. They are the first in and the last out.

In order to succeed in that job, no, that calling, they need the tools that are required for saving lives.

Surprisingly, something not afforded them, not even authorized for them, is a simple device that is at once necessary and portable: The EpiPen.

The well-known epinephrine auto-injector is administered to persons appearing to experience symptoms of anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis is, in layman’s terms, a severe, even deadly, allergic reaction that can develop in minutes, sometimes seconds.

You’ve likely heard about EpiPen being an important asset to those who could face life-or-death consequences if exposed to peanuts or bee venom.

Similarly, that makes the EpiPen part of a first aid kit for organizations and individuals who may find themselves responding to an event in their community or workplace.

State law allows for only a select set of eligible entities and people to inventory and deploy the EpiPen: ambulance services, EMTs, overnight camps, schools, restaurants and amusement parks. Oddly enough, public health law didn’t extend such powers to police or firefighters until December of 2019. Even odder than that, forest rangers weren’t include in that uniformed expansion.

That lifesaving power is an absolute necessity for them in normal times, but it carries even greater meaning now in the pandemic when more people are experiencing the outdoors in ways they never have before.

Think of the hikers and campers who hail from cities or suburbs, who may have never seen a bee up close, if at all, in their life. Up in the Adirondacks’ High Peaks is not where one wants to discover for the first time that they are allergic to bees. They won’t have an auto-injector with them, your average hiker nearby won’t, either. That would leave the Rangers — the backcountry first responders — as their best hope, their only hope, to survive an adverse reaction in that remote terrain.

In response to this, state Senator Jim Tedisco and Assembly Member Angelo Santabarbara put together a timely bipartisan bill (S.4375/A.4652) to right this wrong and allow the nearly 700 forest rangers, conservation officers, and park police employed in the state to carry and administer epinephrine.

Introduced in early February, the bills are languishing in committee in their respective houses. Their fellow legislators need to move more quickly on passage. Get it through the process, voted upon and then signed by the Governor … soon. The law would go into effect 30 days after it is signed into law, which means time is of the essence: If it does not cross the Governor’s desk for another month or so, that means rangers and officers won’t be trained or equipped until the summer rush is on in the mountains and parks, the latter of which open May 21st. By then, it could be too late for someone.

This bill is very important, but at its core it begs the question: Why not empower more of us?

I travel with a first aid bag and a NarCan kit in my truck in the event I have to help others in need, wherever I may be. If I can be approved to deliver Naloxone to save someone’s life from an overdose why can’t I be granted the power to do the same for another who’s suffering from an allergic event?

You’ll often hear people cite this as a moral issue, one of priorities. They ask why medical equipment is provided for and allowed to save a drug addict but it isn’t when needed to save an innocent child.

While that’s a powerful way to put it, I don’t look at it that way. All life is precious. I’ll revive the addict. I’ll protect the child.

Just give me the stamp of approval to do so, to be there for everyone.

I’ll take the training. I’ll invest in an EpiPen. I’ll keep it with me and use it as needed.

I might never save a life, but what if I have the chance? The Grim Reaper comes calling when it is least expected. Give me the OK to keep him away. I might save your loved one or mine. I might save your life or mine.

I encourage the Senator and Assembly Member to apply significant pressure to make their backcountry first responders bill a reality.

And, I hope Mr. Tedisco and Mr. Santabarbara consider expanding the law yet again in the next legislative session, to make the lifesaving power of the EpiPen more accessible to all of us.

Bob Confer of Gasport is the vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. Email him at bobconfer@juno.com.

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