East Meadow School District marks a milestone as first in the state to begin a comprehensive program under New York public health law, allowing schools to have nebulizers on hand as rescue aids for severe asthma attacks.
The program grows out of a yearslong mission by an Islip asthma and allergy specialist, Dr. Harvey Miller, to get nebulizers into New York schools — and especially in reach of coaches on athletic fields should a student have a severe attack.
“My hope all along has been to save lives,” said Miller, who has run the Asthma Education and Support Program at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore for more than a quarter century.
He said he was deeply moved by accounts of young athletes who have died over the years because life-saving rescue equipment and medication were not immediately available. A nebulizer is a portable device used to administer medication in the form of a mist. Asthmatics use them for medication delivery as do people with other respiratory disorders.
Miller applauded the East Meadow school district on Wednesday for heeding an important public health need, particularly in after-school programs when school nurses or physicians are not on site.
The school district is the first in the state to stock nebulizers and additionally to instruct coaches and athletic trainers on using the devices, and the drug albuterol, in the event a student is in need.
“The East Meadow school district is happy to be participating in this,” said Kristi Detor, director of physical education, health and athletics for the district. “The law passed in July 2015 and allows schools to have this apparatus if they so choose. It’s not required.”
District schools will provide the nebulizer, but students must have the medication, Detor said.
While Miller is the inspiration of the law, the actual measure was written by Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) who has long referred to it as common-sense legislation. Having been an emergency medical technician earlier in his career, Boyle told Newsday in 2015 that he was well aware of asthma’s potential for serious consequences.
Miller, meanwhile, backs up his concerns, citing chapter and verse a litany of asthma statistics, the most notable of which are mortality figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency estimates 5,000 people — many of them youngsters — die annually as a result of the condition, which constricts the lungs’ small airways.