Celebrating Legislative Successes in 2018—Children’s Health

Source: One Voice Illinois

This week, Illinois gets a new governor and a new General Assembly. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the substantial legislative gains on issues Illinois PTA supported affecting our children and youth in the areas of health, including mental health, safety, gun control, social and emotional learning, and special education. You can help continue our success by adding your voice to our voice on February 6, 2019 for Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield. In today’s article, we look back at new laws covering children’s health and mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Training

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), although 1 in 5 children in the United States suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, only 21% of affected children actually receive needed treatment. The results of the failure to identify these disorders can lead to isolation, depression, violence, drug use, or suicide. Identification of these issues is the first step in obtaining necessary treatment. Public Act (PA) 100-0903(formerly House Bill 4658) amends the School Codeconcerning Mental Health Awareness to provide for the in-service training of licensed school personnel and administrators to identify the warning signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior in youth from kindergarten through 12thgrade.

Flu and Meningitis Vaccine Information

In terms of overall health, we supported Senate Bill 2654 (SB2654), now PA 100-0977 which requires the development and provision of much-needed information regarding influenza and meningococcal disease and their related vaccinesto the parents and guardians of students. Both illnesses can lead to a substantial number of days lost from school for students, and, in the worst cases, can lead to death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meningococcal related illnesses, which can include certain infections in the lining of the brain and spinal cord, and bloodstream infections, are often severe and can be deadly. With respect to influenza, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there were 174 pediatric deaths from influenza during this past flu season. While influenza and meningococcal diseases are highly preventable with these vaccines, many parents and guardians do not have adequate information on these diseases and the vaccines to make appropriate choices for their children.

HPV Vaccine Information

We also supported SB2866, now PA 100-0741 which requires the provision of Human Papillomavirus Vaccination (HPV) informationby the Department of Public Health to all students entering sixth grade and their parents or legal guardians so that families have the information available and can choose to protect their children with vaccinations before they are ever exposed to the HPV virus. According to the CDC, HPV causes approximately 31,500 new cases of cancer each year. Both the CDC and the AAP recommend immunization against HPV for all 11-year-old through 12-year-old children as part of the adolescent immunization platform.

Asthma and Allergies

Two new statutes that amend the School Code concern students with asthma and/or allergies. For millions of children with allergies and asthma, pollens, molds and exposure to potential allergens and viruses in class can take a high toll. According to the CDC, asthma, which can be triggered by allergies and respiratory illnesses, is one of the major reasons why students miss school. PA 100-0726(formerly SB3015)amends the School Code regarding Asthma Medication Administrationto provide that a school district or school may authorize a school nurse or other trained personnel to: provide undesignated asthma medication to a student for self-administration or to personnel authorized to administer the medication pursuant to a student’s Health Care Action Plan, asthma action plan, IEP, or 504 Plan (“Student Plans”); administer undesignated asthma medication that meets the prescription on file to any student with a Student Plan; and, if necessary, administer an undesignated asthma medication to any person that they believe in good faith to be in respiratory distress. Additionally, the statute provides for a training curriculum to ensure that the signs and symptoms of respiratory distress are recognized and responded to appropriately, and permits a supply of asthma medication to be maintained in a secure location that is accessible before, during or after school.

PA 100-0799 – the Epinephrine Injector Act(formerly SB2889) will allow school districts to choose the least expensive drug option to have on hand in the event of an anaphylactic reaction. Allergies and anaphylactic reactions continue to be important health concerns for many school age children. Statistically, twenty-five percent (25%) of first time allergic reactions occur in a school setting. The time to respond to a severe allergic reaction with appropriate treatment is critical. However, recent increases in the cost of the epinephrine auto-injectors have made their availability difficult for schools. The Epinephrine Injector Act gives them options for less costly, but still effective treatment for children and youth undergoing an anaphylactic reaction.

Dental Exams Before 9thGrade

In terms of dental health, we supported HB4908, now PA100-0829 regarding Dental Examinations for Youths. According to the AAP, there are a number of reasons to have a dental exam beyond the fact that early childhood dental caries is the most common chronic disease of childhood. Many diseases, including diabetes, certain autoimmune system disorders, and cancer, can be detected in a dental oral exam before symptoms show up elsewhere. This statute now adds the requirement that all children in ninth grade have a dental examinations.

Take Action

Do we have more to do? Every day! How can you help? Sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Networkto stay up to date on issues, and  join us for Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.

Questions concerning advocacy issues? Please contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty at lgarbaty@illinoispta.org.