Cookeville PD becomes second in nation to equip officers with epinephrine kits

BY KATE COIL

The Cookeville Police Department has become the first department in the state and second in the country to equip officers with epinephrine pens.
Used to treat severe allergic reactions, the epinephrine kits – better known by the brand name EpiPen – allow officers to treat victims of anaphylactic reactions. The Cookeville Police Department became the first department in the state to adopt the use of epinephrine kits following several 2016 pieces of legislation aimed at making the kits more widely available.

Cookeville Police Chief Randy Evans said officers keep the kits in their vehicles in case they arrive on the scene of a medical emergency.
“There seems to be a trend that more and more children are diagnosed with severe allergies,” He said. “Sometimes, the administering of epinephrine is the difference between living and dying. At any given day at any given time, there might be 10 police cars in the city of Cookeville on the streets. Rarely do ambulances or rescue trucks get out and patrol, so sometimes we are the first on the scene.”

Evans said the idea for the kits came from Cookeville City Councilman Dr. Chuck Womack, who worked with state lawmakers to push the measure allowing officers to carry epinephrine kits.

Public Chapter No. 801 – initially sponsored by Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, and Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta – authorized law enforcement agencies to administer epinephrine in emergency situations. The kits can only be administered by trained officers with a healthcare prescriber or pharmacist writing prescriptions for the law enforcement department. The bill also protects officers and prescribing pharmacists from civil liability. The Tennessee Pharmacists Association worked with lawmakers to create the measure.
Just like with naloxone and AEDs, Evans said officers have to be trained on the use of epinephrine before they can carry it that includes watching videos, learning about side effects of the medication and completing a proper application of one.

Womack has experience with allergic reactions both as a medical doctor and an allergy sufferer. He told the Cookeville Herald-Citizen he has experienced 13 reactions requiring the use of epinephrine, including a life-threatening one in January of 1990.

“If we can spend a few hundred dollars to have the capability to save lives, it’s a good thing to have,” Womack told the Herald-Citizen. “With a few bucks, it’s the difference between life and death.”

Anaphylaxis most frequently occurs in those who are allergic to certain foods, including milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, crustacean shellfish, and sesame. According to the nonprofit Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), an estimated 15 million Americans – including around 5.9 million children – suffer from a food allergy. Roughly 1 in 13 children suffer from some food allergy and 30 percent of child sufferers will suffer from multiple food allergies.

On average, a person in the U.S. is hospitalized every three minutes for an allergic reaction and 200,000 people a year in the U.S. require emergency medical care for allergic reactions to food, according to FARE. Most allergic reactions to food occur outside the home.

“Not every child is on top of their allergies, and for every allergy, there is always a first time to have a reaction,” Evans said. “Sometimes neither the child nor parent do not know that the allergy exists until the child comes in contact with that substance that triggers the allergy.”

Womack wrote the prescriptions for the Cookeville Police Department and used a coupon to equip the police vehicles with epinephrine, costing about $655 total, paid for by the Cookeville Regional Medical Charitable Foundation, which also provides the kits used in the local school system.

Evans said having the kits gives his officers one more tool for protecting citizens.
“We all became police officers to help people,” he said. “Being present at the scene and not being able to help – especially in what is a potentially life or death situation – is very difficult to rectify in one’s mind.”

Cookeville officers already carry AEDs and Naloxone to deal with other life-threatening situations.
Two similar pieces of legislation were also introduced and passed in 2016, both sponsored by Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Rep. Sabi Kumar, R-Springfield. The first, Public Chapter No. 204, allowed for the use of EpiPens by school personnel to aid children having allergic reactions while the second, Public Chapter No. 805, allows “authorized entities” such as a “recreation camp, college, university, place of worship, youth sports league, amusement park, restaurant, place of employment, and sports arena” to do the same, provided the staff administering the kit is properly trained and doing so under the authorization of a physician.