CALEXICO – The recent passage of a state law allowing asthma medication, such as inhalers, obtained in Mexico to be used by students attending local schools was hailed Thursday by officials.
Already, it has benefited some students within the Calexico Unified School District, said Superintendent Carlos Gonzales.
“I think it will only get better as we continue to educate our parents,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales’ remarks came Wednesday during a press conference hosted by the Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District to raise further awareness of Assembly Bill 743, sponsored by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia and signed into law July 12.
Prior to the passage of AB 743, asthma medication obtained in Mexico could not be legally used by students attending local schools.
The prohibition was a local concern, since it is common for some Valley parents to seek medical services and medication, including asthma inhalers for their children, south of the border.
Since the passage of AB 743, the Calexico Unified School District has worked to inform parents of the new law and its regulations, Gonzales said.
The law requires that asthma medication obtained in Mexico be prescribed by a physician whose certification is recognized by the state of California.
Additionally, the physician must be working under the umbrella of a health insurance plan that is equally certified and recognized by the state, Gonzales said.
It also allows the impacted students the ability to possess and self-administer the medication, once their respective campus’ health technician and the district’s nurse determine that the child can do so, Gonzales said.
In contrast, students who use asthma inhalers that are obtained stateside must have those inhalers remain under the lock and key of their respective campus’ health technician.
“We follow the letter of the law,” Gonzales said.
The legislation was prompted in part by concerns initially brought to the attention of community health workers working on behalf of Comite Civico del Valle, said Executive Director Luis Olmedo.
Local students had expressed concerns that the prohibition against bringing lifesaving asthma medication obtained in Mexico onto school grounds had placed them in a precarious position.
“They felt like they were carrying contraband,” Olmedo said.
The students’ concerns were hard to dismiss, Olmedo said, in light of the high prevalence of asthma in the Valley, estimated to affect 12,000 students.
“There was a gap in the law and (AB 743) closed the gap,” Olmedo said. “So far we’ve seen that (Garcia) has taken enormous leadership when it comes to environmental and public health issues.”
The law requires that the asthma medication obtained in Mexico have its prescription written in both English and Spanish, and include the name and contact information for the physician or surgeon.
Provisions within Assembly Bill 743 also protect school officials and school districts from being held liable for any mishaps that may stem from a student self-administering asthma medication in a manner prescribed by the physician.
Prior to AB 743’s passage, Comite Civico was joined by the Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District in its push for a legal resolution to the matter. They were ultimately joined by Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District, Westmorland Union Elementary School District, Calipatria Unified School District, Brawley Elementary School District, Calexico Unified School District, Meadows Union School District, and others.
Currently, Comite Civico is also partnering with Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District on an asthma intervention and management program that aims to reduce asthma attacks among the youth.
As part of that effort, community health workers will visit residents’ homes to determine what actions can be taken to help reduce household asthma triggers.
The program also includes the use of colored flags that are displayed at schools here to alert local residents of air quality conditions.