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October 27, 2014

 BOSTON – State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) announces that today the Massachusetts Senate has enacted S. 1918, An Act relative to cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification for athletic coaches.  This action represents final legislative approval of Downing’s bill, which is now on the Governor’s desk. Governor Patrick has ten days to review and act on the bill.


S. 1918 requires all high school athletic coaches who are paid employees of the school district to be certified in CPR by August 1, 2015. This bill is a significant item of Downing’s legislative agenda, and is a shared priority of the American Heart/American Stroke Association (AHA).  The AHA is the largest voluntary health organization in the world, working to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.


There are 200,000 high school student athletes competing in Massachusetts today.  As they may be unaware of an existing chronic heart condition, ensuring that a responsible adult on the field or in the gym is trained in life-saving CPR is essential.


During sudden cardiac arrest the heart stops beating, blood stops circulating, oxygen stops flowing to the brain, and the victim stops breathing -- all in a matter of seconds.  In these situations, five minutes can be the difference between life and death. Survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest victims who receive CPR within the first few minutes of the event can double or even triple.


To date, the Senate has passed this legislation four times, either as a stand-alone bill or as a part of the Senate budget.  This session, the Senate indicated its preliminary approval of S. 1918 almost a year ago, when it was engrossed with a unanimous vote on November 14, 2013.  Downing and the AHA pushed to secure final enactment of the bill during October, as this month is recognized as Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month.


This is the second heart-healthy bill enacted through Downing’s leadership during this session.  The Senator’s Pulse Ox bill, which was signed into law on March 6, 2014, requires all Massachusetts newborns to be tested for congenital heart defect through pulse ox screening at hospitals and birth centers before they are discharged. Pulse ox, a non-invasive screening test, can identify infants with a congenital heart defect and newborns at risk for heart defects and potentially save their lives.  This commonsense measure is in place in twenty-seven other states across the nation; the bill’s implementation date here in the Commonwealth is January 1, 2015.


For his leadership and advocacy in these heart-healthy matters, Downing received the American Heart Association’s Heart of Our Mission Award on October 23rd.  Upon receipt Downing remarked, “No other award or recognition has meant as much to me as this.  I accept the Heart of Our Mission Award as one of many people whose lives has been profoundly impacted by heart disease. It is an honor to play a small role in trying to prevent others from dealing with losses like those my family has been dealt.”




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