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Kentucky's Diabetes Emergency Task Force Holds First Meeting

Frankfort Capitol Building
Frankfort Capitol Building

A legislative task force formed to address emergency diabetes needs in Kentucky met for the first time this week. The group, made up of legislators who are physicians, doctors, firefighters and more, met in Frankfort on Thursday.

Christel Aprigliano, chief executive officer of the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition, presented to the task force. She said she’s experienced legal obstacles as a type 1 diabetes patient, but said Kentucky lawmakers could improve things.

“There needs to be a change in the system,” Aprigliano said. “Until we’re able to address affordable access for insulin analogs for every single individual in Kentucky, there also needs to be letting people know that there are alternatives."

The Diabetes Medical Emergency Response Task Forcewas created by State Rep. Donna Mayfield after she said her insulin pump malfunctioned. Mayfield said she could not access insulin for hours and suffered hyperglycemia symptoms. She said emergency responders could not provide her the insulin she needed when they arrived.

The task force plans to discuss whether Kentucky law should be changed to allow pharmacists to dispense small amounts of insulin when a doctor is not immediately available.

“Hopefully the next meeting we’re going to talk a little bit more about emergency response," said Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a physician and co-chair of the task force. "Probably get some of our members a bit more engaged about what they think we should be doing as a legislature to help people that have diabetes and helping them survive emergency situations with diabetic management.”

In 2015, an Ohio man's insulin prescription expired, and his doctor didn’t return calls from a pharmacist for refills. He went without the drug, and died four days later because of diabetes-related complications. The man's death pushed lawmakers in Ohio to act, and the resulting legislation was named after him. Now, pharmacists in Ohio are able to dispense an emergency supply of medications in lieu of a doctor’s re-authorization for that prescription.

Advocates are pushing for similar legislation in Kentucky. They are also asking for legislation that would promote transparency for patients, and allow pharmacists to offer cheaper medication options.

Danny Bentley, co-chair of the task force, said the group's first meeting was positive.

“This meeting today was the foundation to open up the information and seeing where Kentucky is,” Bentley said. “We’re here to help the commonwealth help people understand that we can get them a better lifestyle by educating them about diabetes.”

According to data from the task force, more than 530,000 Kentuckians have diabetes. Stewart Perry, former national chair of the board of the American Diabetes Association, said the disease more often affects people of color. Perry said one in three children born in 2000 would develop diabetes in their lifetime, compared to one in two children of color.

The group hopes to submit its findings and recommendations before the start of the 2019 legislative session. The next meeting will be Oct. 8 at 3 p.m.

This story has be corrected. A previous version stated that State Rep. Donna Mayfield experienced hypoglycemia symptoms. It has been corrected to say she experienced hyperglycemia. 

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.

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