Three Hillsdale County schools have been designated as cardiac-emergency ready by the Michigan HEARTSafe program: Jonesville High School, Jonesville Middle School, and Hillsdale County Intermediate School District.
The HEARTSafe program has been helping schools become cardiac-emergency ready for six years, and so far 569 Michigan schools have earned the designation.
Though recommended for every school in the state, it is not mandatory due to the high cost of some of the requirements.
“The ultimate goal would be to have 100% of schools having this program, but for now there isn’t a timeline on it,” said Lynn Sutfin, Public Information Officer at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The program’s goal is to prevent Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young, a blanket term for a range of undiagnosed heart issues responsible for abrupt and unpredictable death in people under the age of 39. It is an extension of the Michigan Alliance for the Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young
According to the Michigan Genetics Resource Center, SCDY kills roughly 300 Michigan residents between the ages of 1 and 39, annually. This program seeks to prevent as many deaths as possible.
According to MDHHS, schools are eligible to receive this designation if they meet five standards: a written medical emergency response plan and team; current CPR/AED certification of at least 10% of staff and 50% of coaches, including 100% of head varsity coaches and PE staff; accessible, properly maintained and inspected AEDs with signs identifying locations; annual cardiac emergency response drills; and pre-participation sports screening of all student-athletes using the current physical and history form endorsed by Michigan High School Athletic Association.
Tina Varney, a registered nurse and the District Health Coordinator for Jonesville Schools, helped Jonesville High School and Jonesville Middle School achieve this designation for a second time. Working toward a HEARTSafe designation was a natural extension of their AED program that began in 2004.
“It’s essential to be aware if your school has this,” Varney said. “It tells a lot about how a district feels about their students and staff by the priority they give to these kinds of health concerns.”
The Jonesville Schools have trained all of their coaches and PE teachers in CPR, and have response teams that participate in several drills throughout the year.
Nikki McLouth is also a registered nurse and works in special education for Greenfield School, part of the Hillsdale County ISD. It took two years for her building to meet all of the requirements, but she said the effort was important since many of the students she serves are at high risk for cardiac emergencies.
Though only 10% of staff are required to be certified in CPR at Hillsdale County ISD, McLouth’s building chose to certify everyone.
“We have a lot of medically fragile students in our building, so we want to make sure we’re prepared,” McLouth said.