The West Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill that would require an automated external defibrillator on school or event grounds during all athletic events or practices “under the control, supervision and regulation” of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
Pending Senate passage, the resulting law would be named after Alex Miller, the 17-year-old Roane County High School football player who died last September after going into cardiac arrest at a game at Clay County High.
As reported by The Charleston Gazette, House Bill 4497 also says the AED “shall be located as close to the event or practice activity as is possible.” The bill has a chance to become law this week, if it passes the Senate by Saturday — the end of this year's regular legislative session.
West Virginia's SSAC regulates football, basketball, baseball, soccer, cross country and other sports and band for public, and some private, middle and high schools. It currently only recommends that schools have AEDs. SSAC executive director Bernie Dolan said ambulances are only required during football playoff games, not during the regular season.
Beverly King, director of Clay County Emergency Medical Services, said an ambulance equipped with an AED was at the game when Miller died. She said ambulances are at all middle and high school football games in Clay County. Still, King said she supports the bill and hopes funding is provided to schools to buy the devices. The bill doesn’t increase state funding to help county school systems pay for them.
The state Department of Education doesn’t currently know how many AEDs would be needed to comply with the law. It also couldn’t answer how many of the state’s roughly 300 middle and high schools don’t have an AED at all right now. The department’s official written estimate official of the bill’s cost noted the SSAC had “purchased and placed 191 AEDs,” and paid $725 apiece. Periodic replacement parts cost $250, according to the estimate.
“We can’t put a cost on a life," John Mandt, R-Cabell, the bill’s lead sponsor, said on the House floor last week, "not of our young people, not of the next person that is going to be successful and have an impact and make a difference in our communities and in our world.”