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Bill would require defibrillators in all W.Va. schools

February 22, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan/Hampshire
Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan/Hampshire

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A proposed West Virginia law that would require automated external defibrillators in all public schools has the support of a local lawmaker and a Morgan County family.

House Bill 4442 would require county school boards to provide life-saving electronic devices at each school and train staff members how to use them.

The “big hurdle” to getting the bill passed is the initial cost, according to Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan/Hampshire, the legislation’s lead sponsor. HB 4442 is pending in the House Education Committee.

A fiscal note detailing the cost of placing defibrillators at each school has been requested, but Cowles said he had yet to receive the information from the state Department of Education. 

Cowles agreed to sponsor the legislation after being contacted by Angie Hott of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., who learned in 2010 that her husband had a heart condition that is hereditary and could be inherited by their children, surfacing without warning.

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Known as Brugada syndrome, the disease causes unexpected cardiac death in apparently healthy individuals who experience severe disturbances of their heart rhythm. AEDs help the heart re-establish a normal rhythm through electrical therapy.

After her husband’s diagnosis, Hott said Wednesday they were advised by a West Virginia University physician that it was important to have AEDs at each school their children attend to ensure their safety.

At the time, at least one school didn’t have an AED, and Hott said the school district lacked the funding to buy the equipment.

Undeterred, Hott said her presentation to the Rotary Club about the safety issue prompted a donation from the Seely Foundation in Berkeley Springs, and led to the placement of AEDs in each school within the first week of classes for the 2010-11 school year.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II said this week that the district has had AEDs at each school for at least three years. Arvon said the school district received support from West Virginia

University Hospitals-East for the purchase of some of the devices.

While the hereditary danger their three children face is unique, Hott said she believes the AED requirement would especially be good for children in more remote school districts in West Virginia where it might take emergency officials more time to respond.

“Placing AEDs in all public schools will not only benefit our children but also the numerous and countless members of the community at-large who attend gatherings at school facilities,” Hott wrote in a letter asking the community to contact lawmakers about the legislation.

Cowles said the bill must pass out of committee by Friday, the unofficial deadline for most proposed legislation to move to the House floor for final vote.

If the bill dies in committee, Cowles said he believes the issue will be added to a study resolution, and lawmakers then could revisit the matter during interim meetings. 

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