Diabetes Forecast

Arizona Law Protects Kids With Diabetes

By Tracey Neithercott

Teaching Schools About Children's Rights

If anyone understands the importance of Arizona's House Bill 2042, it's Shawn Garrelts. Two of her three sons have type 1 diabetes—8-year-old Caleb, who was diagnosed five years ago, and 10-year-old Gabe, diagnosed last August—and, because of budget cuts across the state, their school has no nurse.

It was only luck that her sons could so easily manage their diabetes: Garrelts works one building away from the elementary school as a junior high and high school teacher, so she was able to jet over to give insulin when each boy was first diagnosed. Now, both of her sons know how to manage their insulin pumps on their own.

Because of her close relationship with the school staff, Garrelts was able to enlist volunteers willing to be trained in diabetes care and who pledged to look after the kids during the day. Thanks to HB 2042's becoming law in April, school staff in Arizona may now volunteer to be trained in giving insulin and glucagon to children with diabetes. This allows students with diabetes who attend schools without nurses to be protected.

"It's amazing how big of a difference a conversation can make," says Phoenix attorney Craig Morgan, Arizona advocacy chair for the American Diabetes Association. "These kinds of discussions can lead to changes."

The law, which also allows children to manage their own diabetes with their parents' consent, is close to Garrelts's heart. She's been involved with the American Diabetes Association's advocacy campaigns since Caleb was diagnosed. "We have to be advocates for our kids," she says. "[Legislators] really need those people who are willing to step up to the plate."

Garrelts stepped up when she testified in front of House and Senate committees in Arizona, explaining diabetes as seen through her sons' eyes. "When you present what's important to you, even though you're only one voice, you can make a difference," she says.

And she's right: She saw the difference she and others had made when the Arizona bill was signed into law on April 11.



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