Senate adopts CPR law

PITTSFIELD – High school athletes came away with a win, as legislation proposed by State Senator Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, requiring all public school athletic coaches to hold current certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR, was adopted by the Massachusetts Senate.
Sen. Downing, who has represented portions of Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties since 2007, is pleased with the response from the Senate floor.
“I filed this legislation last session,” Downing said.  “Other legislation proposals have languished far longer in the past, so we are satisfied with this expeditious response.”
Downing also believes the legislation will be effective in it’s mission.
“Its common sense,” the Senator said. “Everyone knows that training in CPR dramatically reduces fatalities. If more coaches are made aware of the signs of cardiac arrest, we can greatly reduce the amount of fatalities that could be potentially suffered by high school athletes in Massachusetts.”
Area coaches are weighing in on the recent news as well.
“Last year, we were all required to do a concussion seminar, so this isn’t surprising at all,” Westfield High Softball coach Joe Stella said. “I actually am due for recertification (in CPR) myself next month, so it doesn’t effect me much. But I do believe it is positive. If it helps one kid, it’s worth it to me.”
The legislation was reviewed and endorsed by the Joint Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. Downing co-sponsored a similar act in 2009, the difference in this year’s legislation being that public school districts are not responsible for costs associated with CPR certification.
“By teaching coaches to call 911, perform CPR and use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator), we can save lives on our athletic fields and in our gyms,” said Allyson Perron, a Senior Government Relations Director for the American Heart/ Stroke Association, who also praised the efforts of Senator Downing and the rest of Beacon Hill for adopting the legislation.
According to statistics provided by the AHA, sudden cardiac death affects 1 in every 25,000 athletes, with a higher incidence among black athletes and basketball players.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has around 200,000 high school athletes statewide.
Perron went on to elaborate on the bill’s importance.
“Since early recognition (of symptoms) and CPR are essential, it would be reasonable to require that someone trained in CPR be immediately available during every practice/game, and that a communication system be put into place,  such that the AED arrives within 3-5 minutes of a presumed cardiac arrest, which this bill would provide.”
When asked what the next step is, Downing responded in a matter of fact manner that has earned him the respect and support of Western Massachusetts during his tenure in office.
“I’m not sure what the next step is, but I will say that anything that raises awareness in regards to safety is a positive. We should be trying to do everything we can to ensure the well-being of student-athletes statewide.”

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