BOSTON — Legislation to require schools to put special plans in place for medical emergencies and to have lifesaving equipment such as defibrillators available for use at sporting events cleared the Senate last week and is poised for final action in the House.
State Rep. John J. Binienda, D-Worcester, said if the bill comes to the Rules Committee, which he chairs, he will not hesitate to advance it to the full House.
“I am wholeheartedly in support of this bill,” Mr. Binienda said of the legislation, which died without action at the end of the 2010 legislative session but was refiled in the current session.
Mr. Binienda, who said it took 20 years for him to get a bill passed in 2010 to require bus drivers and bus driver assistants to learn CPR and anti-choking techniques, does not want to see this bill stall again.
“If it comes to Rules, I will sign it out the second it gets to my committee,” Mr. Binienda said today. A former basketball coach at Leicester High School, Mr. Binienda said if the requirement of emergency plans at all the schools in the state saves one life, “It's worth a million dollars.”
Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, a lead sponsor of the bill, said the death of 16-year old Mike Ellsessar from cardiac arrest after being tackled in a 2010 junior high school football game in Warren, has helped raise awareness about the need for the emergency plans.
There was no automated external defibrillator (AED) and there were no EMS responders at the field during the game, and 15 minutes went by before an ambulance arrived. The young athlete was pronounced dead 45 minutes later at the hospital.
The student's parents, John and Luanne Ellsessar, made an emotional appeal for passage of the bill at a hearing last June before the Joint Education Committee.
Mr. Ellsessar said the plans for every school would ensure that there is adequate CPR training and that defibrillators as needed are in schools and immediately accessible at sport fields.
He said they should be at the field during games and practices, and someone should be in charge of bringing them to the fields so that no time is lost if an emergency arises.
“Ideally I would love to see this signed by the governor so that this is enacted and put in place and each school in the state has a plan in place for this September this year,” Mr. Elsessar said of the benefit of quick action on the bill.
“It would be a great way to honor my son, who is no longer with us. This year he would be going into his senior year,” Mr. Elsessar said today.
“Many schools probably already have a plan, but we want to make sure they all do and that they try it out to make sure it works before there is an emergency,” Mr. Moore said.
The legislation would require the state Department of Education to survey all schools to determine if they have emergency plans in place. It envisions possible development of a matching grant program in the event plans or equipment are needed by local schools.
Mr. Moore said he would support future funding to purchase equipment and develop emergency plans if the survey shows a need, as no grant funds for schools are provided in by the legislation.
Mr. Moore said the value of such plans became evident on Dec. 20, 2010, when 15-year-old freshman hockey player Tyler Symes of Millville was struck in the chest by a hockey puck and went into cardiac arrest during a game in Milford. He was revived with a defibrillator at the rink.
Although many schools have purchased defibrillators, which cost about $1,000, they are not required by law.
Support for the bill was bolstered Nov. 16 when students from Sutton High School, where Michael Ellsessar was a student, and Oxford High, whose football team he played on, lobbied for the bill at the Statehouse. They were joined by students from Blackstone-Millville Regional High School, where Tyler Symes, was a student, and Milford High School, whose hockey team he played on. The lobbying trip came on the one-year anniversary of Michael Elsessar's death.
“I pledged my support for this bill to them that day,” Mr. Binienda said. “I can't wait to vote for it.”
The bill is also getting strong support from State Rep. Ryan C. Fattman, R-Sutton, who has testified in favor of the bill.
SOURCE: Worchester Telegram and Gazette