EpiPens’ discontinuation at summer camps draws ire from parent

March 19, 2013

By Peter Clark

At least one parent will choose to send her child to Bellevue summer camp instead of Issaquah because of the city’s policy on epinephrine administration.

Terri Compton Hintz’s 5-year-old son Gavin has a severe allergy to peanuts. He must always have an EpiPen nearby in case he comes into contact with them. She wanted to send him to Issaquah’s summer camps, but was frustrated to learn that the parks and recreation staff would not be able to administer the shot in an emergency.

“They were so good about it last year,” Hintz said. Though the Parks & Recreation Department said it could not administer the shot, one of the staff volunteered to take care of Gavin should the need arise. “They changed their policies in the fall and it was really frustrating.”

Essentially, the city said that while Gavin could certainly bring the EpiPen along, they did not have the malpractice insurance to cover the liability of injecting the boy.

“It’s unlike a nurse on duty at a school,” city spokeswoman Autumn Monahan said. “Kids go off in groups all over the city, and it would be really difficult to have someone trained to go with them.”

In response to her concerns, the city invited Hintz to attend with Gavin at no charge.

“That kind of defeats the purpose of camps,” she said.

In her search to find an alternative, Hintz found a viable solution with the city of Bellevue.

“They were the exact opposite of what we got from Issaquah. We just had to sign a form,” she said. “They were so accommodating.”

“It’s the insurance company that is calling the shots,” Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said.

Though officials would be glad to train their staff on the administration of EpiPens as first aid, she said Issaquah insurance provider Washington Cities Insurance Authority refused to grant them the liability. “WCIA told us if we used an EpiPen and the child still goes into anaphylactic shock, they would not defend us in court. The city is sticking with WCIA because that’s what we can afford.”

McGill said a difference in resources between the neighboring cities allowed Bellevue the opportunity to offer the protection.

“They are certainly a much wealthier city than Issaquah,” allowing self-insurance to protect against malpractice lawsuits, she said.

Though she said she regretted the lack of services, McGill said the Parks & Recreation Department continues to serve the city, and camp enrollment numbers are increasing. On the first day of registration for summer camp, she said organizers saw an enormous increase; the camp welcomed 57,000 signups compared with 37,000 on the first day of registration last year.

“We have a real positive impact on people’s lives here,” she said.

Hintz was able to enlist local allergy advocacy groups to join her in confronting the city. Both No Nuts Moms Group and Washington Feast have taken up the issue. They reached out to the City Council and State Sen. Mark Mullet, of Issaquah, to bring attention to the limitations the rule places on the parents of allergic children. The groups even offered to teach EpiPen administration to city employees.

“I hope they change their policy for other people here,” Hintz said.

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9 Responses to “EpiPens’ discontinuation at summer camps draws ire from parent”

  1. John W on March 19th, 2013 8:40 pm

    “In response to her concerns, the city invited Hintz to attend with Gavin at no charge.”

    WHAT??!? You mean all you have to do is whine, and the City will give you a freebie? Really?

    Let’s see if this works for everyone: Hey, Issaquah, I think it stinks that the City doesn’t provide a free tennis racquet with tennis lessons. So can I have a free tennis lesson?

    Give me a break! The City made a responsible decision that protects the City (and thus the taxpayer) from lawsuits. There is absolutely no reason to apologize and hand out free classes or camps just to mollify whiners.

  2. Terri on March 21st, 2013 8:18 am

    John W. – Right…. Cause asking them to save my sons life if needed is whining? Get educated before you make ridiculous comments. Do you think allowing a grown adult sit at a kids day camp is a “freebie”. Oh and by the way, if my son attended and something happened and he died, as a taxpayer, you’d be paying a hell of a lot more than you would to just allow the staff to administer life saving treatment.

  3. Dana on March 21st, 2013 8:27 am

    I applaud this local mom for being an advocate for her child and all children with severe allergies. This is a question of safety, and if the city can’t provide a safe environment for every child, that is a problem and it needs to be addressed.

  4. Natalie on March 21st, 2013 12:05 pm

    I hope the City of Issaquah can find a way to accommodate Epi-pen administration at camps. With all of the kids who have allergies now, I’m surprised it is not already part of training and first aid kits.

  5. Terry Hall on March 21st, 2013 12:53 pm

    @John W – That is a pretty uneducated response to this article. Needing an epipen is a matter of life and death. It’s not just a runny nose or a rash type of reaction. It is full on anaphylactic shock. If not treated, a child can die. An epipen is the ONLY way to treat it.

    The parent in this article was not trying to get a “free camp” from the city, she was trying to protect the safety and life of her child. They way I read it is that the city offered the parent the opportunity to attend the camp at no charge while still having to pay for her child.

    Regarding protecting the city from a lawsuit, I think this opens the city up to more lawsuits. Children with an allergy so severe that they need an EpiPen are covered under the ADA – Title II for government agencies and Section 504 for public education. What the current policy is doing, discriminating against someone with a disability., actually opens the city up to more potential lawsuits. The city and their insurance company really need to rethink this policy.

  6. Virginia on March 23rd, 2013 11:27 am

    @ Terri Hintz: call the Deptartment of Justice’s ADA information line at 800-514-0301 and explain your situation. They will tell you options you have if the City and WCIA don’t change this policy – which is discriminating against children with a disability.

  7. Dr LB Sandy Rock on March 24th, 2013 8:50 am

    For years, as a physician, I pushed for availability and use of EpiPen (or similar adrenalin/epinephrine administration device) in a variety of life-threatening circumstances. Fortunately, over the years authorities have recognized the value of the life-saving and low-risk use of this easy-to-administer substance. It is absolutely life-saving, perfectly safe for ANYONE–including the person having the reaction–to administer (no “training” needed) and has almost no contraindications (i.e. reasons for not using). In the same vein as CPR and AED’s (defibrillators), EpiPen can and does save lives and must be used immediately when a person develops a severe allergic reaction. I know personally of two lives saved by EpiPen: one on a golf course (bee sting) and one on a camping trip (sulfited apricots!). Only last week, I gave a lecture to two hundred workers and noted that anyone with even a suspicion of serious allergies to something they might encounter anywhere (e.g. on a picnic; fishing; hiking; etc) should ask a health care professional to prescribe adrenalin for them to carry AT ALL TIMES. In my book, it is criminal not to have it available and use it when a life can be lost in just minutes.

  8. Art on March 24th, 2013 6:25 pm

    I think the positive response would be to complain to the insurance company. The real driver here is not the city.

  9. cora on August 20th, 2013 3:30 pm

    A new law regarding epi pens at schools, passed this last session, would remove all liability from administering an epi pen by altering the good Samaritan laws to include epi pen administration. I cannot imagine why they would make this policy. This is very sad for children with allergies.


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