DPHHS starts distribution of Lucas devices
Agency working with communities to be ‘Cardiac Ready’
August 12, 2015

Governor Steve Bullock announced today that several south eastern Montana communities have received 12 life-saving automatic chest compression devices as part of the state’s new three-year Cardiac Ready Communities initiative.

Emergency Medical System (EMS) personnel from Hysham, Forsyth, Colstrip, Lame Deer, Miles City, Terry, Glendive, Broadus and Wibaux will put the devices, called Physio-Control LUCAS 2 Chest Compression Systems, in use as soon as all staff receive training. 

“Montana’s first responders do a great job, and they now have another tool to use when responding to medical emergencies involving cardiac arrest,” said Bullock. “I have no doubt that these devices will save more Montana lives.”

Governor Bullock and the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) announced in January 2015 a $3.2 million gift for the live-saving equipment from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Gift Trust. The funding calls for 222 Lucas devices to be distributed throughout Montana by 2016. In October, over 50 more devices will be distributed to several north central Montana communities. 

The centerpiece of the Cardiac Ready Communities initiative includes DPHHS distributing the devices which will eventually equip every Montana community that has an organized EMS service with the staff and vehicle to respond. Some units will also go to hospitals, including Critical Access Hospitals. The units cost about $11,000 each, which equates to about $2.4 million of the total funds.

Cardiac Ready Communities program manager Janet Trethewey said these communities were the first to sign an agreement stating they have agreed to work with the project to become a ‘Cardiac Ready Community.’

She said the Lucas devices are tremendous tools to assist in performing high quality chest compressions during resuscitation. However, the tool will only be of benefit if earlier elements in the Cardiac Chain of Survival are in place first. The Cardiac Ready Communities program will work to establish a strong chain of survival by evaluating each link in the chain and then improving it. Recognition of a cardiac event, calling 911, having dispatch-assisted CPR (as a minimum), having quick access to an automatic external defibrillator (AED), and training the community in hands-only CPR will greatly improve the survival rate of those suffering from a sudden cardiac arrest, she said.

Trethewey said the devices allow CPR to be performed longer and more consistently. It always performs compressions to a depth of 2 inches and at a rate of 100 bpm. She said 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. “When responding to emergency situations involving cardiac arrest, time is critical,” she said.

The devices are able to sustain a higher blood flow to the brain and heart compared to manual compressions. Nationally, when there is bystander CPR started immediately, an AED is used within the first few minutes, along with high performance CPR, patient outcomes increased from a historical 0-5 percent to outcomes reaching 40 to 50 percent in some parts of the U.S.

Trethewey said all of these first responders are eager to begin using these devices. “Each community in the region is committed to improving the chance of survival for those suffering a cardiac arrest, and they look forward to helping more people survive a cardiac event,” she 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 AEDs. This is especially important because most often the general public is the first to provide immediate care before EMS arrives.
  • New computer software. The state’s computer system to collect EMS data will be updated. 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.

EMS and Trauma Systems, DPHHS

The DPHHS EMS and Trauma Systems Section is the state's lead agency responsible for the development of a comprehensive emergency medical services program for Montanans. It is the vision of the Section that the development of comprehensive emergency medical, trauma and injury prevention programs is imperative to the well-being, health and safety of Montana citizens. As such, the section's overall mission is to reduce death and disability by providing leadership and coordination in the planning and development of a comprehensive, evidence-based emergency care system.

About The Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting effective nonprofits in a variety of selected areas. Since 2008, when the Trust began its active grant making, it has committed more than $1 billion to a wide range of charitable organizations. The Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program funds innovative projects that use information technologies to connect rural patients to emergency medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel. To date, this program has awarded more than $230 million to organizations and initiatives in the upper Midwest states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, and Montana. For more information on the Trust and its programs, please visit www.helmsleytrust.org.