Mathis Talks Epi-Pen Access With State Senate Democrats at Capitol

By Benjamin Cox on May 10, 2023 at 5:40pm

A Jacksonville native and current CEO of one of the largest children non-profit organizations in Illinois joined State Senate Democrats today in Springfield about bills that would increase access to healthcare and healthcare products.

The package of bills includes insurance coverage for hearing aids and another would provide more time for patients having a hard time paying off their hospital bills.

A third piece of legislation, sponsored by Senator Mike Halpin of Rock Island, would limit the cost of epi-pens to $60 for a twin pack.

Tiffany Mathis, CEO and Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Illinois, says she knows first hand as a mother of a 12-year old daughter who has a severe tree nut allergy just how expensive epi-pens are for low income parents: “At the time and still to this day, we have anywhere between 5-6 epi-pens that we need between the households that she’s in – her grandparents’ house, daycare, and any kind of extracurricular activities that are prolonged for her during the year. During the time when she was about 2-3 years old, I was a single mom at the time. I was on Medicaid. I was using All Kids insurance. For anyone that doesn’t have a child that needs an epi-pen, you have to have a whole anaphylaxis plan with your child’s pediatrician to give to their school in order for the school to administer the epi-pens. Several years ago, [epi-pens] skyrocketed and there were no generic epi-pen junior options. So, what was a very easy and sometimes no cost for me to get 5 epi-pens all of a sudden turned into a $100 per epi-pen because she didn’t weigh enough to qualify for the adult dose, which did have a generic option.”

Mathis says that she had to banter daily back and forth with her daughter’s school and fellow parents at the school so she could share epi-pens due to the high expense. Mathis said at the time of being a single mother, she was working full-time and pursuing a higher education degree full time – making the expenses even more tight on her budget: “At the time, it was kind of bantering back and forth with the school she was attending because her epi-pens were expired when this happened. I couldn’t get new epi-pens. There were parents in a group that I was in that were sharing epi-pens just trying to make sure that the ones that weren’t expired got to those who needed them. The school wanted to help. They only had 1 or 2 epi-pens of their own on site. So, knowing that your child can die in real time at school is just something I don’t feel that should be played with and most certainly shouldn’t be limited due to access based on how much money you have or pharmaceutical companies being able to set a certain price. One-hundred dollars per epi-pen was super exorbitant for me. Again, I was using every resource and child care program possible – that was phenomenal while I was working on my degree full time and working full-time.”

Mathis says she also understand the importance of access even further as the top executive for Central Illinois’ Boys & Girls Club: “We have kids every day that we are serving that are facing these barriers. Because what I’ve gone through as a parent, it definitely positions us as an organization to have this information. We can’t support parents beyond telling them the resources that are available, but a bill like this would definitely relieve a lot of the costs and burden that families are facing to just make sure that their kids are safe.”

The package of bills are now currently in the Senate’s Assignments committee.