Guest Blogger: Amanda (Andrews) Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director
It’s been almost a year since I started with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and I find myself constantly answering the question, “what does AHA do in Montana?” This is an important question for Montanans, we want to feel like the money we give is invested in our home state. This has become my favorite question as AHA has truly invested millions of dollars in Montana and is responsible for many of the positive changes that we have seen in health related law changes.
A Brief History of AHA in Montana
The AHA played a key part in lobbying for the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2005. Thanks to like- minded organizations like the American Cancer Society and our state legislators, Montanans now enjoy smoke-free dining and workplaces.
AHA has been successful in protecting $2.2 million in funding for Montana’s cardiovascular health and stroke program budgets, saving critical services for children, rural Montanans and senior citizens.
The Legislature has approved $1 million annually in permanent funding of voluntary Emergency Medical Services units. This provides a steady revenue source for buying equipment and training for 60% of Montana’s emergency responders.
At one point Montana’s Tobacco Use Prevention Program faced total elimination; our advocates fought hard to protect $4.7 million in annual funding.
Another victory in 2013 was securing insurance coverage for telestroke treatment consultations. Less than half of Montana’s population lives close to a hospital capable of treating stroke. As a result, rural stroke victims can be disabled or even die because correct diagnosis and treatment are delayed. Telestroke technology virtually links rural hospitals to leading stroke specialists who can diagnose and treat stroke patients via internet video.
Monetary Investment in Montana
The AHA provided more than half a million dollars in grants to Montana State University researchers in the last 3 years.
The AHA in partnership with a generous $4.6 million dollar grant donation, has spearheaded the Mission: Lifeline Montana Project. This project has brought jobs to Montana, but most importantly it is directed at improving our cardiac systems of care. In short, hospitals and emergency services across the state of MT will be better equipped to handle heart attack patients. The grant provides training to agencies, new equipment, standardized protocols, and state-wide collaboration.
Current Happenings in Montana
During the upcoming legislative session, I will be working diligently to convince our education system and lawmakers to approve a measure to make CPR a part of high school curriculum. This one simple act could lead to more than 50,000 students being trained each year. This is crucial as 70% of Montanans do not know CPR.
I will be working with law-makers to provide liability protection to schools who open their doors to the community to offer healthy activity time. In Montana, there is currently no statute providing basic liability protection for schools offering healthy, safe places for families to engage in healthy activity outside of school hours.
Health Care Coverage Expansion
I will be joining forces with the many coalitions and legislators working to expand medical coverage to the 70,000 uninsured folks across our state.
I am in the midst of applying for a grant to support Missoula County in implementing school wellness policy. This grant has the potential to provide over $400,000 in funds and will help provide a wellness framework to use state-wide.