Heart Safe La Plata provides equipment, training to schools

Since 2003, Heart Safe La Plata has been making La Plata and San Juan counties safer places to live, work and play. Our nonprofit organization has placed more than 250 Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) throughout both counties and trained hundreds of citizen responders. We are particularly proud of our success with the schools. Every school in La Plata and San Juan counties has an AED program. AEDs are available to the staff and students on a daily basis, as well as for sporting events, special events and meetings attended by parents, grandparents and community members. La Plata and San Juan counties contain four separate school districts with a total of 19 public schools and three private schools.

There are approximately 5,760 to 7,000 sudden deaths among high school students each year in the United States. Our agreement with each school district also assures teachers, staff and coaches are regularly certified in CPR and AED use. Two years ago we began a project to extend this training to high school students. Our plan was met with both enthusiasm and reluctance in the various school districts.

It remains our goal to graduate classes of high school students who are comfortable with CPR and public-access defibrillators. Not only would schools be safer, but this education would be a tremendous benefit as these young people enter college or take jobs. Even further, increasing the number of CPR- and AED-trained citizen responders has been clearly linked to increased survival rates in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

Senate Bill 12-098 would offer CPR training to all Colorado students in grades nine through 12 and require certification in the 12th grade in order for students to graduate. The American Heart Association supports this legislation and so does the Heart Safe La Plata board of directors.

Scott Sholes, Amy Knight, Kathy Morris, Barbara Lawson and J.T. Coyne, Heart Safe La Plata board of directors