Grant to assist rural counties with emergency equipment

Tony Parra

U.S. Representative Tom Udall has announced $252,760 in grant funding to the New Mexico Department of Health to increase access to on-the-spot help for people who suffer heart attacks in rural counties in New Mexico.
“These are going to be for government facilities such as the sheriff’s office or facilities where they hold CPR-approved classes,” Portales Fire Chief Steve Beaty said. “We have a lifeback in each of our ambulances. We have four ambulances and the lifeback consists of EKG, a defibrillator and more devices.”
Former president Bill Clinton signed into law the Rural Access to Emergency Devices Act, which was a bill co-sponsored by Udall. The federal program is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program helps communities purchase automated external defibrillator. The funding is also for training emergency and community personnel in their proper use.
“Our lifebacks cost around $20,000 each while the AEDs that they are talking about cost around $2,500,” Beaty said. “The first 3-5 minutes are important during a heart attack. We need to use it when the heart has an irregular rate and we have to shock it to get it back to its normal rate. It’s good for these places to have access to them.”
Automatic defibrillators are lightweight, portable devices which provide and electrical shock capable of restoring the normal heart rhythm of cardiac arrest victims.
“When a person goes into cardiac arrest, time is of the essence,” Udall said in a press release. “Because rural hospitals are often far from the scene of emergencies, it’s crucial that we get AEDs in the hands of emergency medical technicians, police officers, and others who are among the first to respond to a person in distress.”
The Causey, Dora, Elida, Floyd fire departments already have the lifebacks in their facilities and the grant is more useful to those in large populated facilities such as an airport, Beaty said.
“This is an important grant for our state as heart disease is the number one cause of death for New Mexicans,” Udall said in the press release.
Beaty added that the Portales Fire Department has applied for the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant the last three years. The Portales Fire Department received this year’s grant and has received it two out of the three times they have applied for it, according to Beaty.
Any rural Emergency Medical Services agency, law enforcement agency, fire department, health clinic, religious organization, and any other rural entity interested in applying for a grant is encouraged to contact the New Mexico Department of Health at 505-476-7701. Udall estimates the funding will make available approximately 55 automatic defibrillators statewide.
“We had to use an AED not too long ago on the front steps of the fire station,” Beaty said. “It saved that person’s life and they’re still alive today.”