BSA has specific policies on dispensing medication to scouts at events. Many scout camps assign the responsibility to a certified health care professional on the camp staff. Many larger camps, especially in the Northern Star Council, leave this responsibility to the individual units: troops and crews.
Most units follow one of two methods for managing medications. The first, and most common method, is the Unit Designated Adult (UDA). Here a unit will designate an adult that will take the responsibility of distributing medications to all the scouts that need them. The second method is individual responsibility method (IR). In this method, the individual, parent or guardian is responsible to ensure the scout receives his/her medications.
It is important to first understand what the BSA policy is on medications. It can be found on http://www.scouting.org. It is listed in two places. It is in the Guide for Safe Scouting and also in the Scouting for Youth with Disabilities Manual.
The taking of prescription medication is the responsibility of the individual taking the medication and/or that individual’s parent or guardian. A leader, after obtaining all the necessary information, can agree to accept the responsibility of making sure a youth takes the necessary medication at the appropriate time, but BSA does not mandate or necessarily encourage the leader to do so. Also, if state laws are more limiting, they must be followed. BSA camp standards may modify this for specific camp operation.
This policy addresses three primary concerns: safety, privacy and parental / guardian rights and responsibilities.
In Scouting, safety is our primary concern in all that we do. When it comes to medication, the responsibility for safety needs to fall on the person most familiar with the situation. For example, a scout with diabetes that receives insulin. Parents and patients receive several hours of training to learn how to properly administer this treatment. It is unrealistic to expect an adult to learn how to administer this treatment in the hectic half hour while the troop is loading the trailer and trying to get on the road. In addition, the person who knows the scout best will know what to look for to make changes to the treatment as needed.
Administration of insulin brings up another point. Insulin is generally administered with an injection. Most scout leaders are not trained or qualified to give injections. In addition, most leaders would not be comfortable giving the injection. Putting a scout leader in a position of having to say no to administering medication may mean the scout is unable to attend camp. This puts the leader and the scout in an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.
A scout, even if the scout is a minor, has a right to privacy. An example of this would be a 16 year old suffering from depression. This scout may not want anyone in the unit to know that he/she is taking antidepressants. Respecting this scout’s privacy will be difficult to do if a leader is doing the medication roundup. In addition, the scout is probably very capable of taking the medication himself/herself. In this example the scout should be allowed to take their own medication if the parent(s)/guardian(s) agree.
In the above example it should be noted. The medications that the scout is taking should be listed on the camp physical form. If there is any danger of side effects or any other danger, at least one leader should be informed so that they can keep an eye on the scout. The reality of the camp physical form is that it contains only the information that the scout, parent/guardian and doctor agrees to put on it.
The last point is parental rights and responsibilities. Ultimately the parent/guardian is responsible for the safety of their child. The BSA policy respects that. It is their decision with the scout as to how medications will be administered.
The UDA method of medication distribution does fall within BSA policy as long as it is voluntary. A parent/guardian can chose to ask the UDA to dispense medication to their scout. If that parent/guardian wants another adult to dispense the medication, they can ask someone else. The best case is for a parent or guardian to go to camp with their scout. They can ensure the medications are properly administered, as well as enjoy the camp experience and be a part of the unit.
Some camps have more restrictive requirements mandated by state law. BSA camps in some states require that a licensed professional administer the medication if a parent / guardian is not available to administer the medication. It is important that leaders are well aware of the camps medication policy before going to camp. This should be checked each time a unit camps. Assuming that the policy has not changed since the last camp could put a well-meaning leader in violation of BSA policy or state law.
Camping and events are a vital part of camping. It is important that scouting remain safe. Following the BSA policy on prescriptions will keep scouts safe and protect leaders from liability in an unfortunate event.