CAPITOL — The state Assembly and Senate have approved legislation that will allow state park and forest rangers and environmental conservation officers to carry EpiPens to provide emergency treatment in the field for people who are suffering from severe allergic reactions.
While the legislation still requires a signature by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, two prime sponsors — both Capital Region legislators — say that if it is signed into law, it could save lives, given that the state’s parks and outdoor lands are seeing record visitation due to people wanting to spend time outside during the pandemic.
The bill was sponsored by state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville. It cleared the Assembly Tuesday evening and the Senate on Wednesday. Approval in both houses was unanimous.
Epinephrine injectors, also known as “EpiPens,” are used to reverse the effects of severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis from bee stings, drug reactions, food allergies or exercise-induced shock.
In addition to medical professionals, teachers, children’s camp counselors and a range of other professions are allowed to carry the pens and administer treatments. Police officers and firefighters were added by legislation in 2019 — but the law enforcement officers who patrol the state’s forest lands have not had the authority. There are about 700 rangers or environmental conservation officers patrolling the state, according to the legislators.
“Our state parks and trails have seen a record number of visitors this past year, and this trend will surely continue as we head into the warmest months of the year,” Santabarbara said. “That’s why it’s crucial we do everything we can to keep our families, friends and neighbors safe while they are our in our state parks.”
Legislators believe that the record level of visitors to the Adirondacks, Catskills and state parks that occurred in 2020 will continue this summer, so there may be increased need for medical responses.
“Hikers, campers, swimmers, hunters, and picnickers will be out in force,” Tedisco said. “They’ll be bites and allergic reactions. That’s why we need our park rangers, forest rangers and environmental conservation police officers to be able to carry life-saving EpiPens to help respond to a severe allergic reaction.”
Santabarbara said that rangers already carry medical kits, and the injection pens can simply be added to their kits as funding becomes available. Individual officers will not be required to carry the devices, but the legislation will give them the option to, which they didn’t have before.
“The unexpected can happen when you’re outdoors,” Santabarbara said.
In another medicine-related bill, Senator Michelle Hinchey, D-Saugerties, and Assemblymember Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, announced the passage of their bill to amend an outdated state law that restricts air ambulance providers from carrying and distributing human blood products to patients at the scene of an emergency.
The legislation would allow aeromedical crews to store blood products at their bases, carry blood on flights, and donate unused blood to rural hospitals, effectively overturning cumbersome rules barring air ambulance providers from performing these vital services, the sponsors said. The legislation now goes to Cuomo for consideration.