Measure Would Give Students the Basic Skills
ALBANY — State lawmakers joined together with health advocates from around the state on Wednesday to push for the passage of a bill that would require CPR training for students in high school.
The measure, called the “CPR in Schools” bill, is sponsored by Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, Monroe County, and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, D-Nassau County, and would require high school students to be trained in hands-only CPR.
The bill would not require certification, but would give students basic skills to act in case of an emergency situation, advocates said. The bill has faced criticism as being an unfunded mandate on schools, but lawmakers said the measure would save lives.
“There comes a time when some things that you’re asking people to install or maintain or pay for, save lives as public safety. And I can’t think of a better thing than having an army of young people trained with basic CPR,” Alesi said.
Members of the American Heart Association, which is advocating for the passage of the bill, said the addition of a CPR course to high schools would be inexpensive. The organization said the mannequins needed for the courses are available for around $27 or could be provided through partnerships with local emergency-management agencies for free.
The cost of training teachers to be certified to teach students would cost $10 per teacher, officials said.
At a news conference on Wednesday in support of the bill, families of people who have died from cardiac arrest were on hand to stress the importance of the measure, which is being sponsored by 30 senators and 50 assemblymen.
“I want my story to be the norm, not the unusual,” said Kaitlin Forbes, 22, of Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, whose life was saved in 2005 by the application of CPR when she suffered cardiac arrest playing softball. “We need to create a generation in which every brother, sister, son, daughter, friend, and complete stranger is trained in CPR and is prepared to save lives.”
The survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest occurring outside of a hospital is 11 percent, according to the American Heart Association, and fewer than one in three victims receive CPR from a bystander.
The group said high school students were at an appropriate age both physically and mentally to understand when and how to perform CPR. The group said a program started in a Sag Harbor, Suffolk County, high school in 1994 has been responsible for saving 16 people who needed CPR.
“We have the potential of every child in our schools of being a life-saver,” said Weisenberg, a trained lifeguard who said he saved a life using CPR. “What is a school for? It’s to educate. What’s more important in a health curriculum than to have people being able to save another person’s life?”
Mothers of children who died in sudden heart-related cases said if programs like those being sponsored in the bill had been in effect at the time of their children’s’ deaths, they might still be alive.
“When a minute counts, when a second counts in a life, having someone that knows hands-only CPR is imperative to be on hand,” said Annette Adamczak, of Akron, Erie County, whose 14-year-old daughter Emily died after suffering cardiac arrest while at a soccer practice. “That one person’s life may not mean a whole bunch if you don’t know them, but when it is your own family member and you have to look at them as they leave this Earth, it means the world.”
Alesi has fought for the measure to be passed for almost five years, but has met some resistance from school officials who don’t want another unfunded mandate.
The bill is currently is in the Education Committee in both houses. It has passed the Republican-led Senate before but not the Democratic-controlled Assembly.