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Colorado school nurses could soon delegate over-the-counter drugs

March 10, 2017 Updated: March 10, 2017 at 6:04 pm
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white tube with ointment isolated on a white background

You don't need to be a school nurse to hand a kid some ointment.

That's the idea behind Senate Bill 33, which allows a professional school nurse to train someone at the school then delegate dispensing authority for over-the-counter medication.

The bill passed the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee unanimously on Thursday. It passed the Senate 34-0 on Feb. 10., and two Senate committees unanimously.

That's significant for a couple of reasons. The bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Polly Lawrence, a Republican from Roxborough Park.

The Democratic majority in the House tends to frown sternly on any bill related to schools put forth by any Republican, but especially from a sponsor such as Lawrence, who raised money and helped elected many of the Republicans in the chamber.

For Democrats to gladly hand Lawrence an easy win says it must be a good bill, which is the other reason. But will the bill makes it to the House floor? Will it retain its mojo or pick up some opposition?

It helps that the legislation was introduced by a Democrat in the Senate, Irene Aguilar of Denver, a medical doctor.

Aguilar told a Senate committee in January rules that appear to block non-nurses from dispensing over-the-counter drugs, even with permission, impede school field trips.

That hits home for the Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood, said Principal Scott Bain. Part of the alternative public school's curriculum is a wilderness trip.

While a doctor can sign off on who can dispense prescription medications, that's costly and burdensome for families when it comes to poison oak medication or other over-the-counter medicine, he said.

"The person leading that trip needs to be able to make a judgment call," Bain told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in January.

The bill was endorsed by Colorado Association of School Nurses supported the bill, while the Colorado Nurses Association testified on the bill but took a neutral position.

"This bill clarifies a process for schools to train employees to administer over-the-counter medications, ensuring students are safely using the medications their parents authorize them to use," Lawrence said in a statement.

"Many parents send over-the-counter medications with their students or are willing to give a school permission to administer commonly used medications, this bill simply ensures the schools that don't have a full-time nurse can help facilitate safe usage of medications."

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