Path cleared for Elmhurst cops to use EpiPens

 
 
Updated 8/24/2017 7:21 PM
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  • State Sen. Chris Nybo, center, and Shelly LeGere, right, at a bill signing ceremony for the Annie LeGere Law, which allows police departments to equip and train officers to use epinephrine auto-injectors, or EpiPens, to save people from life-threatening allergic reactions.

    State Sen. Chris Nybo, center, and Shelly LeGere, right, at a bill signing ceremony for the Annie LeGere Law, which allows police departments to equip and train officers to use epinephrine auto-injectors, or EpiPens, to save people from life-threatening allergic reactions. Daily Herald file photo/August 2016

  • Annie LeGere

    Annie LeGere

Two years after a 13-year-old Elmhurst girl died from an allergic reaction, her city may become only the second in the state to equip its police officers with the EpiPens that could have saved her.

Two Elmhurst doctors signed an order Wednesday allowing officers to be trained to administer the drug and begin using epinephrine auto-injectors, possibly before the end of the year.

The move comes after a Monday city council meeting where officials expressed frustration about liability concerns that are preventing most law enforcement agencies -- the DuPage County sheriff's office may be the lone exception -- from equipping officers with the devices that can save people suffering from multi-system allergic reactions.

The push to equip officers with EpiPens came after Annie LeGere died Aug. 26, 2015, from an allergic reaction while at a sleepover.

Police officers arrived before paramedics but weren't equipped to deal with Annie's medical issues. When paramedics reached the scene, they took Annie to Elmhurst Hospital, but precious minutes had been lost.

She died a week later, sparking an effort led by her mother, Shelly LeGere, to pass what became known as the Annie LeGere Law.

The 2016 state law authorizes police to carry and administer EpiPens and waives any liability for officers and their municipalities.

But an unforeseen problem arose because the law does not specifically waive liability for doctors who write the prescriptions for the devices, said Republican state Sen. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst, who co-sponsored the bill with Democratic state Rep. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg.

Partially as a result, use of EpiPens among Illinois police departments is virtually nonexistent a year after Annie's Law took effect.

Nybo has introduced an amendment to extend legal immunities to doctors who prescribe EpiPens for use by police, but it likely won't be taken up by the legislature until early next year.

"These are laws that are charting new territories," he said.

Therese Gracey, a pediatrician, is one of the doctors who signed the standing order along with Jeff Kulik, an allergist. Both are partners at Elmhurst Clinic and are on staff at Elmhurst Hospital.

Gracey said Thursday supplying police with the device is crucial, because "minutes matter" in the treatment of a multi-system allergic reaction.

"We feel this is important to our community and the right thing to do," she said. "We're going to do what's right."

She already has met with police and agreed to assist in choosing the most appropriate training program for officers.

Nybo acknowledged Elmhurst has cleared "a big hurdle" but cautioned that concerns about physician liability still must be addressed.

"We've got a bill out there to fix that," he said. "I'm hoping we'll be able to pass that early next year. There just are not enough session days remaining this year to be able to get a new bill introduced and passed in both chambers."

At Monday's council meeting, Gracey noted police carry Narcan to help save people who have overdosed on heroin and similar measures should be taken for those who have food allergies.

"I think it's an absolute no-brainer that our first responders carry epinephrine," she said.

Cathryn Hanson, who was with Annie at the sleepover, also spoke at Monday's meeting. She talked about the need to educate the community about EpiPens and said she thinks about her friend every day.

"She keeps me motivated every single day at school," she said.

• Daily Herald staff writer Bob Smith also contributed to this report; Kathryn Oberle is a Daily Herald correspondent.

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