Two steps remain to put EpiPens in hands of Elmhurst cops

 
 
Updated 8/25/2017 5:28 PM
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  • Annie LeGere

    Annie LeGere

Elmhurst police Chief Michael Ruth says his department has taken the first and most complicated step toward equipping officers with EpiPens to treat people suffering from multi-system allergic reactions.

But two more tasks remain before the devices are actually in officers' hands: training a staff of roughly 100 to use the epinephrine auto-injectors and then buying them.

City officials long have expressed frustration about liability concerns that prevent most law enforcement agencies in Illinois from using EpiPens -- despite passage of a law last year meant to make the devices readily available to police.

That legislation -- called the Annie LeGere Law in memory of a 13-year-old Elmhurst girl who died two years ago from an allergic reaction at a slumber party -- authorizes police to administer EpiPens and waives liability for the officers and their municipalities.

But because the law does not specifically waive liability for the doctors who write prescriptions for the devices, only one department -- the DuPage County sheriff's office -- is known to use them.

State Sen. Chris Nybo, an Elmhurst Republican and co-sponsor of the original bill, has introduced an amendment to extend legal immunities to doctors but says the legislature is unlikely to address the issue until next year.

In Elmhurst, however, two doctors, Therese Gracey, a pediatrician, and Jeff Kulik, an allergist, stepped up to sign a standing order Wednesday authorizing police to use the devices.

Ruth said the next step is to work with Gracey to select from among three certified training courses. He said plans call for training all staff members, including 68 full-time sworn officers.

Once the training nears completion, he said, the department will purchase the EpiPens. Officials don't want to order the devices too soon because they have a one-year shelf life.

There's no specific timetable for equipping officers with the EpiPens, he said, "but our goal is as soon as possible."

Elmhurst police already carry the anti-heroin drug Narcan and defibrillators.

Gracey said supplying police with the new devices is crucial because "minutes matter" in the treatment of severe allergic reactions.

"We feel this is important to our community and the right thing to do," she said.

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