Story originally written by Jen Jobrack for AllergicLiving.com on March 17th, 2021. Link to the original article may be found HERE
Protecting the lives of very young children with food allergies, “Elijah’s Law” is starting to be replicated around the country.
New York State was the first to pass the law in September 2019. Now in Illinois, the Childhood Anaphylactic Policy Act (HB 102) would require the Department of Public Health, in consultation with the Board of Education, to establish anaphylaxis policies and procedures for school districts and daycare settings.
The new bill passed at the committee stage in the Illinois House in the first week of March. Now, with minor amendments, it will head to the full House to be voted on.
New Yorker Thomas Silvera was the principal witness at the Illinois committee hearing. Appearing remotely, Silvera told the lawmakers that he is championing Elijah’s Law in memory of his younger son. More than four years ago, Elijah-Alavi Silvera tragically died of an anaphylactic reaction to a grilled cheese sandwich. The 3-year-old was given the sandwich at his preschool, despite the daycare knowing of his food allergies, including a severe allergy to dairy.
Progress for Elijah’s Law in Other States
Thomas and his wife Dina Hawthorne-Silvera have worked relentlessly to make sure that no other family suffers as they have. New York’s Elijah’s Law is first of its kind legislation that requires all daycare programs to implement guidelines to prevent, and train to recognize and respond to anaphylactic reactions. The law expanded on existing anaphylaxis protocols that protect and accommodate New York students in grades K–12.
Silvera sees momentum building for the expansion of Elijah’s Law. Besides Illinois, he’s working with legislators and advocates for similar bills in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, California and New Hampshire. Representative Jonathan Carroll, the sponsor of the Illinois bill, says that his bill would “tighten” anaphylaxis training that is already required by law in Illinois schools, and would add daycare centers.
The Silveras feel proud of their accomplishments and know they have more work to do. “I didn’t know this was the path that was going to be chosen for me,” says Silvera. “To provide care to children in need, to protect them from everything.”
That protection is starting to be implemented in New York State. On March 15, all licensed child-care programs in the state received Elijah’s Law policy and updated enrollment forms, which are available online here.
Elijah’s Echo Grows Louder
After Elijah’s death, the Silveras created the Elijah-Alavi Foundation to encourage nationwide diverse and equitable food allergy and asthma resources in every neighborhood. They say their foundation is “Elijah’s echo,” and the initiative educates about the severity of food allergies and anaphylaxis as well as the importance of education and training about the disease.
Silvera sees his drive as evidence of his son’s ongoing presence in his life. “As a family, the way the trajectory of our life has changed, it shows that Elijah is moving in us and creating a path of safety” for children. He calls it the “work that Elijah is doing even though he is not here.”
“The echo Elijah created is resonating,” says Silvera. It will be a roar, not an echo.”
Jen Jobrack, founder of Food Allergy Pros, is the host of Allergic Living’s Talking Food Allergy podcast.