Mich. law: Firefighters can't use EpiPens

A recent state law allows paramedics to use an EpiPen, but not certified medical first responders

BLENDON TWP., Mich. — Firefighters in Michigan said a state policy that prohibits some firefighters from using an EpiPen puts lives in danger.

Wzzm13.com reported an inconsistency in a recent state law that allows paramedics to use an EpiPen but not certified medical first responders, which includes most firefighters.

EpiPens are often allowed in schools and can be administered by non-emergency workers in a school setting, which makes the policy even more confounding.

"It's kind of frustrating that my 22-year-old daughter is authorized to use it after 30 minutes of training, and I've been a firefighter, MFR, for 25 years and been through continuing education training all of those 25 years and I still can't use it," said Kurt Gernaat, the Blendon Township fire chief.

Chuck Weaver, a Blendon Township resident, nearly died while waiting on an EpiPen after being stung by bees in his backyard.

Weaver was stung multiple times after accidentally mowing over a bees nest and his allergic reaction was immediate. "I started to lose my eye sight, so then I knew I was in trouble," Weaver said.

Once his daughter-in-law called 911, Weaver waited for a firefighter to respond. When firefighter Trevor Overweg arrived, he did not have an EpiPen and they were forced to wait for an ambulance.

"It seems like forever when you're in those situations, but I bet it was another five to seven minutes before Life got on scene," said Overweg. "Yes, an extra five minutes could have helped quite a bit."

Gernatt said the fact that firefighters are permitted to use Narcan for heroin overdoses but are prohibited from using the EpiPen for allergic reactions is another puzzling inconsistency of the law.

State Rep. Daniela Garcia, who is on the state’s health policy committee, became aware of the issue last summer and is putting pressure on lawmakers to fix the problem.

"There is some confusion around it," Garcia said. "That is something that we're looking into."

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services told Garcia they plan to update their policy in March.

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