Not much of substance was accomplished this 2013 Legislative Session. There were a few reforms in education. Time will tell whether or not giving districts more control over the calendar and placing more staff at the RESAs will make much of a difference in the overall education of our students. There were several bills passed that will affect school health and school nurses, and several that we managed to keep from passing that could have affected us negatively.
House Bill 2729 will definitely have a direct effect on school nurses and our students. This bill, which was passed by both Houses and has been signed by the Governor, allows schools to voluntarily maintain and use epinephrine auto-injectors. It provides for the administration of an auto-injector by a school nurse or other trained and authorized nonmedical school personnel for emergency care or treatment of anaphylactic reactions; allowing the issuance of standing orders and protocols by physicians. The bill also allows students who self inject to use the school supply if they do not have their own auto injector and it allows schools to participate in free or discounted manufacturer sponsored pharmaceutical programs to obtain the epinephrine auto injectors. It provides for data collection and reporting requirements and sets forth rule making authority. The state Board of Education, working with the State Health Officer, will promulgate the rules needed to implement this act.
Senate Bill 21 would have required identification badges for health care providers and those performing delegated care, including those in school systems. This bill was vetoed by Governor Tomblin on April 29.
House Bill 2357 makes the act of sexting by minors an offense of juvenile delinquency. It also sets up some education diversion programs. This bill is still awaiting action by the Governor.
Senate Bill 663, also known as the WV feed to Achieve Act, was championed by Senator John Unger and is intended to provide every child in WV schools a daily nutritional breakfast and lunch. Several strategies are mentioned to combine public and private funding to pay for this endeavor.
Perhaps even more important were the bills that we fought to keep from passing. Several bills involving immunizations were introduced. If any of these had made it onto the agenda of the House Health Committee, they would most certainly have been amended to include nonmedical exemptions. Given the current membership of that committee, the amended bill would have most likely passed out of the Committee and would have passed the House. It is questionable whether or not we could have kept it from passing in the Senate. This will continue to be an issue that we fight each year. While Committee Chairman, Delegate Don Perdue, worked with us on this, he was under tremendous pressure and received hundreds of phone calls asking him to put these bills on the agenda. Many, many thanks to all of you who called Delegate Perdue and left him messages of support. It definitely made a difference. He did ask Brenda Isaac to meet with him and advocates from both sides to discuss the medical exemption process. He feels that it is far too loose and not well controlled on the state level. He plans to work closely with WV DHHR to correct this.
Another bill made it through the House Education Committee to improve the ratio of school counselors to students to the national recommendation of 1 counselor for every 350 students. At the last minute, this bill was amended to include a school nurse ratio of 1 school nurse for every 1500 students, however, a provision was added that counties could not use state funds to hire any school nurses over the 1:1500 ratio. That would have actually hurt school nursing as more than half of the counties do better than a 1:1500 ratio and we all know that 1:1500 is no longer adequate. Many of those counties could have actually lost school nurse positions. We had to see to it that the bill died in House Finance, which it did. The large fiscal note for the additional counselors helped to kill it. Thanks again to Andy Gallagher and Delegate Nancy Guthrie for catching that and keeping that bill from getting on the Finance Committee agenda. This is the second time that amendment has shown up on a bill in the last three years. The first time we thought perhaps this was an oversight. Now, we arent so sure. We have to continue working very hard to educate our legislators on the absolute need for certified school nurses in adequate numbers.
House Bill 2731 involved allowing nursing homes and personal care homes to delegate certain medical procedures to nursing assistants and other unlicensed persons. As written, the bill included insulin administration and tracheostomy suctioning as procedures that could be delegated. The Board of Nursing felt strongly that this was a very unsafe bill and vigorously opposed it. Fortunately, it did not make it out of Judiciary Committee. While this did not directly involve us, allowing unsafe delegation in one arena could open the door for the same practice in the school setting.
The American Diabetes Association has made advances in a number of states, getting legislation passed to allow for the delegation of insulin and the training of lay persons to administer insulin. We will have to watch this very closely. The ADA is beginning to make a strong presence in West Virginia.
Thank you all for all of your help and advocacy! There is definitely power in numbers and because of your phone calls, e-mails and letters to our legislators we are seen as a very politically savvy group. Your voice continues to make a difference. Angela, Andy and I could NOT do it without you. Keep up the good work!