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Montana receives $6M grant for defibrillators in emergency vehicles

Posted at 6:26 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 20:38:57-05

Montana has received a $6 million grant which will provide 2,200 automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), a lifesaving device used during cardiac arrest, to law enforcement and other first responders across the state.

The grant comes from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, with the goal to provide a defibrillator to every law enforcement vehicle across the state.

“We don’t know when these AEDs will be called into action, who will be called upon to use them or when emergencies may occur,” said Gov. Steve Bullock. “But we do know that we need to be ready to respond.”

The survival rate from an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Montana is currently around 12 percent.

Studies have shown the survival rate increases to nearly 40 percent if law enforcement responding have a defibrillator on hand.

Defibrillators are not inexpensive, however, and can cost more than $1,500 each depending on the model.

Many law enforcement agencies, especially rural ones, don’t have enough money in their budgets to provide a defibrillator to every patrol vehicle.

“This is the difference between life and death,” said Sheridan County Sheriff Heidi Visocan. “We’re pretty remote. [Sheridan County] is 1,700 square miles with 3,600 people. Sometimes we’re 45 miles from the hospital, so it’s going to take the ambulance a while to get out there to us. If we can get out there and start initial lifesaving care, it’s going to be a really good benefit to the community.”

The Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office currently only has one device for the entire department, and they’ll now have eight. The Bozeman Police Department was operating with five devices in their fleet before the grant. Soon they’ll have 26 for their patrol units.

Statewide, city police cars will see an increase of 368 defibrillators, and sheriff’s offices will see an additional 572. In total, 135 organizations, including highway patrol and game wardens, will receive new defibrillators.

The defibrillators to be distributed in Montana are LIFEPAK CR2 defibrillators. The self-monitoring devices can send near real-time event data, including a patient’s heart rhythm and shocks delivered, to incoming emergency services or receiving hospitals, as long as Wi-Fi is available.

To date, the Helmsley Charitable Trust has invested $70 million in Montana. In 2015, the state health department received a $3.2 million gift for LUCAS devices, which are automatic chest compression devices used in ambulances.

The defibrillators currently in use by law enforcement will be transferred to schools, senior centers, churches and other organizations that could benefit from having one on site.