REGION — Cochise County Superintendent of Schools Jacqui Clay is in the process of implementing ‘stock inhalers’ for schools across the county.
The inhalers are bronchodilators that will be stored in schools and administered to asthmatic children by trained personnel when breathing episodes occur.
“A stock inhaler provides a single albuterol treatment that can be used to help children when they’re having difficulty breathing because of asthma,” said Clay, whose Innovations in Education Conference slated for Jan. 24 and 25 is offering a training session on how to use the inhalers when children exhibit difficulty breathing. “According to the national average, about 10 percent of school-aged children have asthma, but the average in Cochise County is much higher, closer to 15 percent. All of these children should have access to an inhaler at school, and we’re currently working to make that happen.”
Through the efforts of Dr. Lynn Gerald, associate director for clinical research at the Asthma and Airways Disease Research Center of the University of Arizona, legislators passed HB 2008 — “Stock Inhalers for Schools” — in March 2017. The bill allows trained school personnel to administer albuterol to students while protecting them against liability when the inhaler is administered in good faith. Additionally, the bill’s language protects physicians and pharmacists who sign the standing medical order that prescribes the albuterol inhalers to schools requesting them.
Gerald and her team started working with a few school districts in Arizona to pilot stock albuterol programs, with participating districts reporting a decrease in 911 calls and a drop in ambulance transports.
Stock inhalers are currently being used by some school districts in counties across the state, with Cochise County poised to join them.
To date, schools in Pima, Maricopa, Coconino, Apache and Yavapai counties have stock inhalers, in addition to three schools in Cochise County, said Clay, who wants to see inhalers at all 70 of the county’s schools.
“This can be done for less than $100 per school, or a combined total of $7,000,” Clay said. “The advantage of having albuterol inhalers on hand is that they provide immediate treatment when breathing episodes occur, which allows students to stay in school without having to go home or be transported to a hospital.
“It also allows working parents to stay at work, instead of having to stop what they’re doing to bring the child’s inhaler to school.”
Asthma episodes can be very frightening for the child, especially when treatment is delayed, Clay added.
“These inhalers provide children with immediate relief, greatly minimizing anxiety when a child is having a breathing problem. They also allow children to stay in school without interrupting their time in class, which is another important advantage,” Clay said. “This program is receiving widespread support from communities across the county because it represents a common sense approach for a potentially serious health issue. We’ve received generous donations from Lawley Kia, the Legacy Foundation and Arizona G&T Cooperatives as we prepare to launch this countywide program for our schools.”