Lawmakers pass Ackerman’s 911 bill that came out of local tragedy

Lawmakers pass Ackerman’s 911 bill that came out of local tragedy

PROVIDENCE – After the House of Representatives approved legislation from Deputy Majority Whip Mia Ackerman that would required the 911 system to certify and staff individuals trained in telecommunicator CPR, the Senate passed its version of the bill from Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin on Tuesday.

The legislation establishes an emergency phone system call review and quality improvement, and would require all 911 operators to be trained in telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

“911 operators are the real first responders and can make the difference between life and death,” said Ackerman. "When CPR starts before the arrival of an emergency medical technician, the person in cardiac arrest is two to three times more likely to survive."

The bill came in the wake of incidents where bystanders were unable to perform CPR due to a lack of instructions from 911 dispatch. In 2018, Rena Fleury, a 45-year-old woman, died after she went into cardiac arrest at a Cumberland High School football game. The 911 call-takers failed to recognize that Fleury was having a cardiac arrest, and they failed to provide CPR instructions over the phone. The Public Radio's Lynn Arditi wrote an investigative piece on the incident for ProPublica in 2019.

Each year, an estimated 350,000 sudden cardiac arrest events occur in the U.S. in an out-of-hospital environment, according to the American Heart Association, which strongly endorses T-CPR-trained 911 operators.

“Emergency telecommunicators are a vital link in the lifesaving chain, and this legislation will help to ensure that CPR is being performed before emergency medical personnel arrive," said Ackerman.

She said she was proud to see three of her bills pass the General Assembly this session, including the 911 bill and the Maryellen Goodwin Colorectal Cancer Screening Act, requiring Rhode Island health insurance plans and nonprofit hospital and medical corporation plans to provide coverage for screenings for prostate and colorectal cancers, as recommended by the American Cancer Society.

“These two bills are going to save so many lives,” she told The Breeze.

On Wednesday, Ackerman was scheduled to be at a news conference at Tolman High School to see Gov. Dan McKee sign a bill she co-sponsored with Sen. Sandra Cano requiring the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education to develop statewide standards in consumer education for public high schools. She said that bill will benefit so many children in Rhode Island.