Bill requiring high-school students to learn CPR goes to Senate floor; House has passed similar legislation in previous sessions

UPDATE: SB33 passed the state House on consent March 28 and now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature. 

UPDATE:   SB33 passed the state Senate on Jan. 28  by a 32-6 vote and will now go to the state House of Representatives for further consideration. 

A bill that would require every high-school student in Kentucky to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation, commonly called CPR, has moved to the Senate for passage after the chamber showed no interest in similar House bills in previous years.

Sen. Max Wise

“Each year nearly 424,000 people have sudden cardiac arrest outside of the hospital and only 10 percent of those victims survive,” the bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Max Wise, said at the Jan. 13 Health and Welfare Committee meeting. “Yet when a CPR trained bystander is near, they can double or triple these victims survival rate by giving the victim the help they need until the EMS arrives.”

Tanner Demling, a Trinity High School junior, is one of the few who survived.

Tanner’s father, Jody Demling, a sportswriter and radio host of “Early Birds” on Louisville’s WKRD, told the committee that Tanner, who was born with a heart defect, but had checkups every year and was cleared to play sports, had a sudden cardiac arrest in 2014 while at lacrosse practice, going 30 minutes without a pulse. He said Tanner’s coach immediately started CPR, and was soon helped by another bystander.

“There were hundreds of people around that day, but they could only find a couple of them that knew CPR,” Demling said. Later adding, “If two people in that crowd didn’t know CPR, then Tanner wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Wise’s Senate Bill 33 would require every student in grades 9-12 get CPR training in either a health or physical education class or in a junior ROTC class. Wise said the training takes only 30 minutes to an hour, and because the bill includes a community component, it adds no additional financial burden to the schools.

Wise, a Republican from Campbellsville, presented a spreadsheet that included an EMS volunteer in every Kentucky county that had agreed to provide this training at no charge. “If the school system says we don’t have anybody that can do this, there is a volunteer,” Wise said in a follow-up interview.

The training would be in the form of CPR limited to rhythmic chest compression, which has become preferred and does not include mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It is already part of the Kentucky Academic Core Standards for high school education, but it isn’t always provided. About 27 states have some type of law to require high school student be trained in CPR before graduation.

“This can be a potential life saver,” Wise said in the interview. “It reduces the chances of someone being a bystander and not knowing what to do in the situation.”

Rep. Jeff Greer

Rep. Jeff Greer, a Brandenburg Democrat who has passed similar legislation out of the House the last two years, said in an interview that he plans to file a bill in the House soon.

While Greer said the most important thing is to pass this bill, he also expressed some puzzlement as to why the Senate was on board this year, when it wouldn’t even allow it a hearing the past two years.

“It just seems so strange to me that for the past two years, they were telling me, ‘We won’t pass that; we have no appetite for that; it is a mandate,’ and then all of a sudden it is one of the first bills out of the chamber.”

Wise said that as a senator elected in 2014, he couldn’t speak to the previous roadblocks. He said that he decided to sponsor the bill after one of his Russell County constituents who was a strong proponent of last year’s House bill because her son has a heart condition brought it to his attention. “I think it is a common-sense law,” he said.

Greer said he felt confident that this year’s bill would pass out of the House again and that, “Hopefully, between one or the other, it will become law,” he said. “We need to make sure that this gets done.”

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