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$6.4 million grant to provide 2,500 defibrillators across Nebraska
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$6.4 million grant to provide 2,500 defibrillators across Nebraska

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More than 150 automated external defibrillators will soon head to Lincoln Police Department squad cars, among 2,500 to be distributed statewide to law enforcement agencies and first responders.

The initial distribution of AEDs on Monday afternoon marked the beginning of a statewide effort to supply defibrillators to first responders throughout Nebraska thanks to a $6.4 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

The grant will provide 158 defibrillators to LPD, a figure that Jason Hellmuth, an education personnel officer with the department, said should help the department have AEDs in most — if not all — of its squad cars.

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More than 30 representatives from Lincoln-area law enforcement agencies — including LPD and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office — were on hand to collect AEDs and undergo training that Nebraska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone said will save “countless lives” across the state.

A study conducted by the American Heart Association notes a higher rate of survival for heart attack patients when law enforcement officers, who are generally the first to arrive on a scene, are armed with AEDs, according to a Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services news release announcing the distribution.

“Everyone knows, for trauma, it’s the 'golden hour,'" Anthone said. “For cardiac arrest or a heart attack, it’s 'the golden three minutes.'

"So if you can get to an individual that’s suffering a heart attack or cardiac arrest — it’s in those first three minutes, studies show, that there’s about a 75% survival rate for that individual compared to only 50% of a survival rate if it’s after three minutes. So those first three minutes are crucial.”

Representing LPD was Hellmuth, who has been teaching CPR and AED use since 1990 and wasn’t surprised by the “three minutes” statistic Anthone cited in his address to first responders. Hellmuth said the new defibrillators will lead to a "significant increase" in AED availability for individual LPD officers. 

“It provides every officer that has an AED in their vehicle the ability to provide immediate life-saving aid,” Hellmuth said. “Not only can we do CPR, which all officers are trained to do, we can give immediate life-saving aid using an AED, so that there is less time of person-down to immediate medical attention.”

The AED distribution builds on previous grant funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust put toward public health efforts in the state. The $6.4 million effort follows a $5.9 million grant that distributed mechanical CPR devices to state EMS services and hospitals in 2015.

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A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Andrew Wegley joined the Journal Star as breaking news reporter after graduating from Northwest Missouri State University in May 2021.

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