Advocates Celebrate Final Step in 15-Year CPR in Schools Bill Effort

Local supporters and advocates reflect on what the law means

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Buffalo, NY – With a standing room only crowd of American Heart Association volunteer advocates in attendance, the New York State Board of Regents on Thursday approved a regulation requiring Hands-Only CPR training in high school, making New York the 26th state to do so. More than 1.5 million students will be trained each year in the 26 states, including more than 190,000 high school graduates annually in NYS. This was the final step in a 15-year American Heart Association grassroots effort to get CPR training in high schools in New York State.

But for the four mothers in attendance who lost their children to cardiac arrest, it was a bittersweet moment. All four have lobbied for the CPR training, as well as formed foundations that have increased the awareness of sudden cardiac arrest – and helped save lives.

Emily Adamczak was 14 when she died six years ago. Her mother, Annette Adamczak of Akron, NY has since trained 18,000 students in Hands-Only CPR.

“The ripple effects of this action will be felt across the state, as we make a difference in the lives of our children,” Adamczak said. “Together, where hands and hearts meet, a life can be saved; one heartbeat at a time.”

Madison McCarthy of Evans was 5 when sudden cardiac arrest claimed her life in a kindergarten classroom.

“Madison was surrounded by the best people possible, but without an emergency plan in place, nobody took action,” said Madison’s mother Suzy McCarthy.

Adamczak and McCarthy were joined by other American Heart Association advocates – including survivors like JJ Pesany of Lancaster, a senior in high school, who suffered an electrical shock and was saved by CPR in 2013.

“I am so excited everyone’s hard work has paid off!” JJ Pesany said. “This has been a long time coming and I’m happy the time is now for New York State to be a place with more students trained in CPR/AED use. This chapter may be over but as one door closes another opens. It’s time to get training!” Pesany said.

Akron Central School District, in Erie County, was the first to become a CPR Smart School in the Buffalo Niagara region. The school district worked with administrative staff, Annette Adamczak (who holds CPR training classes in Western New York) and the Buffalo American Heart Association staff.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the CPR in Schools bill, sponsored by then-Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, D-Long Beach and then-Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, into law in October of 2014. The law called on the state Department of Education to ask the Regents for a recommendation on the instruction of CPR in Schools. The Regents recommended that it be included in the curriculum, and directed the Department to draft the rule for public comment. Yesterday, the Regents gave the final stamp of approval to the measure during their 11:15 a.m. meeting on Thursday, Sept. 17.  American Heart Association advocates celebrated at 12:30 p.m. on the steps of the State Ed building wearing red.

“The American Heart Association is proud to be a resource and collaborative partner in the community, whether it is a school CPR/AED training or at a business,” Larry Cohen Buffalo Niagara American Heart Association Board Chair, said. “CPR Saves Lives.”

New York became the 26th state with this law, meaning that more than 50 percent of the nation’s students will be learning Hands-Only CPR – that’s some 1.5 million students. 

For more information about local CPR in Schools training implementation, heart health educational materials, or to share your story, call the Buffalo American Heart Association at #716-243-4603.

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New York State became the 26th state to require CPR training in high school. Hover over 26 to see larger images!

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers in WNY. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved with the Buffalo affiliate, call 1-716-243-4603, visit the local Buffalo website www.heart.org/Buffalo.