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Grant Announcement

$3.2 million grant aims to improve heart attack survival rates in Montana

Pictured from left is Director Richard Opper, Governor Steve Bullock, Jim DeTienne of PHSD and Montana Fire Chief Paramedic Bill Farhat
Pictured from left is
Director Richard Opper,
Governor Steve Bullock,
Jim DeTienne of PHSD
and Montana Fire Chief
Paramedic Bill Farhat

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) announced it has received a $3.2 million gift from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to implement a three-year Cardiac Ready Communities initiative in Montana.

Governor Steve Bullock said this funding will be used to enhance the overall emergency medical system (EMS) in Montana. “We are grateful to the Helmsley Trust,” Bullock said. “This initiative represents a significant investment in Montana, especially to our rural areas. This will improve outcomes for those who suffer cardiac arrest and equip our first responders with additional tools they need to save lives.”

The centerpiece of the Cardiac Ready Communities initiative includes the purchase of 222 automatic compression devices, called the Physio-Control LUCAS® 2 Chest Compression System, which is enough to equip every Montana community that has an organized EMS service with the staff and vehicle to respond. Some units will also go into hospitals, including Critical Access Hospitals. The units cost about $11,000 each, which equates to about $2.4 million of the total funds.

DPHHS Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Systems supervisor Jim DeTienne said the process to distribute the new devices will begin immediately. The process includes local communities signing an agreement stating they have agreed to work with the project to become a ‘Cardiac Ready Community.’ The goal is to have them all distributed over the next 18 months. 

DeTienne expects the broad introduction of automatic compression devices in Montana to be a difference-maker since they allow CPR to be performed longer and more consistently. He said that studies show two people can only perform ‘high performance’ CPR for 5-10 minutes due to fatigue. (High performance CPR means compressions are never interrupted or stopped unless absolutely necessary.) Patient transports in rural Montana often average over 20 minutes. “In emergency situations involving cardiac arrest, time is of the essence,” DeTienne said. “This will be an important tool going forward as we implement this new Cardiac Ready Communities initiative.”

DeTienne said a limited number of automatic compression devices are currently in use in Montana, and have shown positive results. The devices are able to sustain a higher blood flow to the brain and heart compared to manual compressions. Nationally, when a high performance CPR system is used, patient outcomes are increasing from a historical 0-5 percent to outcomes reaching 40 to 50 percent in some parts of the U.S., DeTienne said.  

The Cardiac Ready Communities initiative includes several additional key components all aimed at improving the overall EMS system, including:

  • More training opportunities. Plans are also underway to enhance training capabilities in Montana communities for dispatchers on bystander CPR and for the general public on hands-only CPR and the use of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs). This is especially important because most often the general public is the first to provide immediate care before EMS arrives. “The rural nature of Montana often prevents even the best of emergency service systems from arriving at rural scenes in time to help cardiac arrest patients,” DeTienne said. About $300,000 has been budgeted over the next three years for training.
  • New computer software. Funding has also been set aside to update the state’s computer system used to collect EMS data. The new system will improve Montana’s ability to collect and share data with other states and participate in a seven-state research project by the University of North Dakota that will study the use of automatic compression devices in rural states.
  • Public education. Public education will also be distributed through the initiative. “To provide cardiac arrest patients the best opportunity to survive their event, the public needs to recognize the signs of heart attack and the need to call 9-1-1,” DeTienne said. “They need to know how to efficiently perform hands-only CPR and they need to know if an AED is available and how to use it.”

DeTienne said over one-quarter of all deaths in Montana are attributed to cardiovascular disease. When a heart attack occurs, a fast and accurate medical response is crucial. Each minute that the heart is deprived of oxygen increases the chances of damaging or destroying part of the heart muscle. “Enhancing the chain of survival will help Montana improve heart attack care which will mean better outcomes for cardiac arrest patients and more lives saved,” he said.  

The Helmsley Charitable Trust first launched a cardiac ready initiative in South Dakota in July 2010 with a commitment of $8.4 million from the Trust. From 2011 through 2014, the Trust also generously committed additional funding for cardiac care projects in six other states: an additional $3.7 million for South Dakota, $7.5 million for North Dakota, nearly $8 million for Wyoming, $8.6 million for Minnesota, $4.7 million for Montana and most recently $4.1 million for Nebraska, $4.6 million for Iowa, and an additional $3.2 for Montana.  With the added funding for Montana the total commitment from the Trust for cardiac care has reached $52.6 million.

"I CAN'T THINK OF A BETTER WAY TO KICK OFF A NEW YEAR, THERE ARE GOING TO BE SOME PEOPLE, SOME MONTANANS WHO ARE GOING TO GET A SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE BECAUSE OF THE TRAINING AND THE EQUIPMENT THAT THIS GRANT WILL PROVIDE."

DPHHS DIRECTOR RICHARD OPPER

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