Empower Receives Life-Saving AED Devices from Univera Healthcare

Four sites operated by Empower, formerly Niagara Cerebral Palsy, are equipped with semi-automated external defibrillators thanks to an underwriting grant from Univera Healthcare. With the devices, known as AEDs, these group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities are better equipped to respond to a sudden cardiac arrest.

“Having these devices in our sites allows our staff to take immediate action in a sudden cardiac arrest while waiting for first responders to arrive,” said Jeff Paterson, Empower chief executive officer.

Founded in 1954, Empower is a nonprofit organization that provides housing, job training, day programs, service coordination and preschool programming for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as clinical and preschool programs for the broader Niagara community. The agency’s administrative offices, preschool, community clinic and service coordination program are located in the Town of Niagara. The job training and day programs division is based in Niagara Falls, while residential facilities are located throughout Niagara County. Licensed by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the New York State Education Department, Empower is an affiliate of the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State and is a member agency of the United Way of Greater Niagara.

“Minutes can save lives when a sudden cardiac arrest occurs, so it’s important to have an AED within reach,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer.

Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart’s electrical system suddenly and unexpectedly malfunctions. The heart is electrically active, but is beating chaotically and is unable to pump blood to the brain and other vital organs. If not treated within minutes, this loss of function quickly leads to death.

In the United States, it is estimated that sudden cardiac arrest outpaces deaths from prostate cancer, house fires, traffic accidents, and HIV combined. Over half the victims of the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest can survive when treated quickly with CPR and shock from a defibrillator.

“The shock administered by an AED actually stops the heart’s irregular rhythm, which allows the heart’s own electrical system to sort of reboot and resume a normal rhythm,” said Vienne.

Underwriting grants from Univera Healthcare and its parent health plan have placed more than 160 AEDs into service across upstate New York, including more than four dozen AEDs placed with law enforcement agencies in Erie, Wyoming and Chautauqua Counties.