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More defibrillators sought; State police cars may receive units

A West Side legislator is trying to get more help for heart attack victims by getting defibrillators in some State Police cars.

State Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Albuquerque, has sponsored a bill (HB 547) to buy $250,000 worth of equipment for state agencies.

The state Department of Health has been receiving federal grants to buy defibrillators and training for first-responders like police and emergency medical technicians, but because of the way the federal grants are written, metropolitan areas like Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Rio Rancho and Las Cruces have been ineligible for funding, said Jim Derrick, emergency medical services program manager for the state Department of Health.

A defibrillator gives an electric shock to the heart to help establish normal contraction rhythms in a heart having arrhythmia or in cardiac arrest, according to the American Heart Association.

This year, an estimated 700,000 people nationally are expected to have their first heart attack, and another 500,000 will have a repeat attack, according to a 2005 association report.

A study last year showed that people having a heart attack are twice as likely to survive if they are in a place with access to a defibrillator and volunteers are trained in their use.

Anderson said he has about 20 signatures from co-sponsors for the bill, including Speaker of the House Rep. Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe.

Anderson wasn''t aware of the federally funded defibrillator program, which began in 2002, but had been sponsoring capital outlay bills over the last two years to buy 20 defibrillators each for the Bernalillo County and Sandoval County sheriff departments. He got $40,000 for each department.

"I just came up with an idea of something that was neat to do," said Anderson, who was recently elected to his second two-year term.

There already have been about 250 defibrillators distributed in rural areas in the state, Derrick said. This year, there is $205,000, funded by federal grants, to place them in public areas such as parks, community centers and sporting arenas.

The state''s goal, he said, is to place the defibrillators in all the state parks.

A lot of police and emergency agencies already have been buying defibrillators on their own, Derrick said.

The models cost about $1,275 a piece in bulk, although professional models for the EMS units cost more, Derrick said. The money also covers training.

"I know they are being used successfully," Derrick said.

In 2002, Sandoval County also received eight automated defibrillators from the American Heart Association for police patrol cars.

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