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Meet Montana Advocate Reg Hageman

Guest Blogger: Amanda Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

On January 19th, Reg Hageman joined me at the Montana State Capitol to lobby for passage of Senate Bill 66 (SB66), "An Act Revising the Youth Access to Tobacco Products…Defining ‘Electronic Smoking Device,’ Revising the Definition of Tobacco.”  This is a long title given to a bill that essentially would outlaw the sale of e-cigarette cartridges and e-cigarette liquid to minors and include electronic smoking devices (e cigarette cartridges) in the definition of tobacco product. 

As the law stands currently in Montana, children are allowed to purchase an e-cigarette cartridge and any e-liquid that does not contain nicotine.  This liquid can be put in the e-cigarette cartridge and inhaled into the lungs as the cartridge heats it and turns it into an aerosol.  The industry that sells these products likes to call this type of inhalation of the aerosol “vaping,” claiming that the liquid is vaporized, while in reality it is made into an aerosol akin to the type you would spray out of a tin can. 

There were two very distinct points that Reg told the committee during his testimony; kids are using e-cigarettes at an alarming rate and tobacco and “vaping” companies are targeting children with the use of flavored e-cigarette liquids like chocolate and gummy bear.  Reg cautioned the committee against allowing Montana children to become the next generation of smokers as they habituate to performing the smoking behavior using these products. 

Reg’s voice is a strong one with a lot of credibility.  He is not only a health teacher at Capital High School in Helena, but he is also the VP of Recreation for SHAPE Montana- the Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.  The American Heart Association is lucky to have advocates like Reg who take the time to voice their opinions on matters affecting the health of Montana.

In regards to SB 66, as of print time of this story the Senate Committee on Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs had not yet voted on its passage.  In the time since it was proposed, several amendments have been proposed in response the vaping industry’s requests not to include electronic smoking devices in with the definition of tobacco products.  Not including these products in the definition will make it difficult to regulate their use in indoor spaces in the future.

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The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015 Livestream

Join us for this exclusive virtual event where top designers and celebrities demonstrate their support for women's heart health during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Heart disease is not just a man's disease. Each year, 1 in 3 women die of heart disease and stroke. We can change that--80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. Help break barriers against heart disease and stroke by joining us for the Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015 live online at on Thursday, February 12 at 8 p.m. Eastern. See you there!

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An update on One of Our Youngest Advocates - Coulter Cross

You might remember our littlest advocate Colter and his mom Bobbie from last year. With Congenital Heart Defect Awareness week upon us (February 7-14) we wanted to give you an update on how he is doing.  This message was written by his mom, Bobbie:

Colter celebrated his 3rd birthday in November as well as his 3rd Heart-a-versary! Colter's busy as ever playing with all of his favorite superheroes, Batman in particular! Colter's been perfecting his football moves as he wants to be just like his favorite football player, Russell Wilson. It's been such an honor to be a part of his journey to living a healthy life.

Medically, Colter is doing very well, he had a stent placed in his conduit this last August. Due to some complications during the stent placement, the routine angioplasty wasn't done on his pulmonary arteries. So we've had monthly checkups with his Cardiologist to monitor him very closely until June, when he'll have another catherization to open those arteries back up. I still can't believe some days that there's anything wrong with his heart, the amount of energy that boy has is incredible! He plays football from sun up to sun down. We look forward to 2015 and all the year has to bring!”

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Montana's 2015 Legislative Session is Under Way

On Monday January 5th Montana’s 2015 legislative session kicked off. As you might already know the Montana Legislature only convenes every two years so we want to make sure to make the most of it!

With your help last year we were able to work with the Board of Health to ensure all babies born in our great state are screened for congenital heart defects. With that victory in hand we hope to work on other issues that will make Montana a healthier state for everyone who lives here.

We will be focusing on two issues over the next few months:

  • Supporting Medicaid Expansion – By expanding Medicaid more people will have access to healthcare. Our hope is that helping people gain access to medical care will catch health issues early before they become catastrophic and allow those who have already experienced health problems to receive the necessary follow up care they need.
  • CPR in Schools – We are asking the Board of Education to add CPR training to school curriculum. Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and is most likely to occur outside of a hospital setting. If we can train students in this lifesaving skill we will add thousands of potential lifesavers into our communities each year.

We will call on you from time to time to reach out to lawmakers with messages of support. Please keep an eye out for our emails and take action when you can.

Thank you for everything you do and your support of the American Heart Association!

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Advocate Spotlight: Kami Sutton

As a survivor, volunteer, advocate and staff member – I wanted to share my story. 

I was recently featured on a Children’s Health Link special on our local NBC affiliate, KING5, with a story that highlights me as an 11 year old volunteer and fast forwards to where I am today. Please take a look and how far I have come and what the future holds!

Twenty-six years ago, I was born with a severe congenital heart defect (CHD). My parents were told that I might not survive the 30 minute ambulance ride from Everett to Seattle Children’s Hospital. As would become my goal in life, I did my best to prove the doctors wrong and to this day I still try to prove them wrong in the way I accomplish things they never believed possible. And always by my side, helping me achieve this was medical research and technology.

It seems that over the years, technology has always been one step behind me, as soon as I would need a new repair, it was found to be possible for pediatric use right in the nick of time. I have always been in the right place and the right time of technology and my next procedure is no different.

As I transition from pediatric to adult care at the University of Washington Medical Center, we are looking at my condition with fresh sets of eyes and new technology possibilities in hopes of avoiding a heart transplant which I have been awaiting for the past five years. A new pacemaker to improve my heart function could be the answer, but with my complex anatomy, my doctor thought it might be more difficult to place a new wire to the opposite side of my heart.

I had recently heard about research using patient-specific 3D heart models to practice cardiac ablations, so I asked the doctor if it might be helpful in my case. He was quite excited that I had suggested this and about a month ago, I underwent a cardiac CAT scan to start the process. I should be receiving my new pacemaker sometime early next year once he masters the procedure.

This technology and the possibility of me having better heart function and quality of life has been eye-opening and I again realize just how important the work we do at the AHA is. I have always had a passion for our cause but knowing that advances in medicine every day could lead to a better outcome for patients like me is what drives me.

Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting our mission, it means the world to me and every other CHD, heart and stroke patient out there!

For the full story, please click here.


Kami Sutton

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You're the Cure Year End Successes, Let's Celebrate!
It was another banner year for You’re the Cure advocates championing heart and stroke policy change across the country. Year end is a time to look back at what we achieved in states, think ahead to the work still to do, and celebrate the power of volunteers.
What did we accomplish last year?
Below are just three of many victories that made 2014 so successful.  


  • 35 states now have laws protecting our littlest hearts. Pulse oximetry, a simple detection screening for heart defects gives newborns a chance to survive thanks to early detection.
  • We reached a major milestone in ensuring all students learn CPR before graduating from high school. Now more than 1 million students, in 20 states, will graduate each year with this lifesaving skill.
  • 6 states increased funding for heart disease and stroke prevention programs.


Want to see more accomplishments? Check out the video below.

These are just a few highlights and for the full story be sure to check out the state by state wrap-up online. We couldn’t achieve these great accomplishments without the power of YOU our advocates. Your work to educate lawmakers, recruit family and friends, and share your story and expertise are what makes change happen. So from your AHA staff partners a big, Thank You!
P.S. – You can help inspire others to join the movement by sharing our accomplishments highlight video.

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What has AHA done for Montana

Guest Blogger: Amanda (Andrews) Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

It’s been almost a year since I started with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and I find myself constantly answering the question, “what does AHA do in Montana?” This is an important question for Montanans, we want to feel like the money we give is invested in our home state. This has become my favorite question as AHA has truly invested millions of dollars in Montana and is responsible for many of the positive changes that we have seen in health related law changes. 

A Brief History of AHA in Montana

The AHA played a key part in lobbying for the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2005. Thanks to like- minded organizations like the American Cancer Society and our state legislators, Montanans now enjoy smoke-free dining and workplaces. 

AHA has been successful in protecting $2.2 million in funding for Montana’s cardiovascular health and stroke program budgets, saving critical services for children, rural Montanans and senior citizens.

The Legislature has approved $1 million annually in permanent funding of voluntary Emergency Medical Services units. This provides a steady revenue source for buying equipment and training for 60% of Montana’s emergency responders.  

At one point Montana’s Tobacco Use Prevention Program faced total elimination; our advocates fought hard to protect $4.7 million in annual funding.

Another victory in 2013 was securing insurance coverage for telestroke treatment consultations. Less than half of Montana’s population lives close to a hospital capable of treating stroke. As a result, rural stroke victims can be disabled or even die because correct diagnosis and treatment are delayed. Telestroke technology virtually links rural hospitals to leading stroke specialists who can diagnose and treat stroke patients via internet video.

Monetary Investment in Montana

The AHA provided more than half a million dollars in grants to Montana State University researchers in the last 3 years. 

The AHA in partnership with a generous $4.6 million dollar grant donation, has spearheaded the Mission: Lifeline Montana Project. This project has brought jobs to Montana, but most importantly it is directed at improving our cardiac systems of care.  In short, hospitals and emergency services across the state of MT will be better equipped to handle heart attack patients. The grant provides training to agencies, new equipment, standardized protocols, and state-wide collaboration. 

Current Happenings in Montana


During the upcoming legislative session, I will be working diligently to convince our education system and lawmakers to approve a measure to make CPR a part of high school curriculum.  This one simple act could lead to more than 50,000 students being trained each year. This is crucial as 70% of Montanans do not know CPR. 

Obesity Prevention

I will be working with law-makers to provide liability protection to schools who open their doors to the community to offer healthy activity time.  In Montana, there is currently no statute providing basic liability protection for schools offering healthy, safe places for families to engage in healthy activity outside of school hours.

Health Care Coverage Expansion

I will be joining forces with the many coalitions and legislators working to expand medical coverage to the 70,000 uninsured folks across our state. 


I am in the midst of applying for a grant to support Missoula County in implementing school wellness policy.  This grant has the potential to provide over $400,000 in funds and will help provide a wellness framework to use state-wide.  

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A Reflection on Gratitude and AHA in Montana

Guest Blogger: Amanda Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

It’s been more than 10 years since I got the news that my dad, Tom, had had a heart attack.  I was 20 years old, an undergraduate student at University of Montana and in complete shock.  I knew he hadn’t been feeling great, but a heart attack at 53 years old, it couldn’t be possible.  One quadruple bypass and a devastating diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure later, my dad was eventually sent home.  The road since the surgery has not been easy, quite the opposite actually, but my dad is still here and for that I am grateful.

You see, my dad is one of those typical tough Montana guys.  He waited almost 3 hours before even telling his wife that he was having chest pain.  He didn’t want to burden anyone.  He’s a strong guy, a quality he instilled in me from an early age- the picture is from 1993, dad insisted that I drive that Jeep Hot Wheel, the pink Barbie Corvette was not an option.

Unfortunately, dad’s stubbornness was not in his best interest on the day of his heart attack.  What he didn’t know was that every minute he spent delaying his care, his heart muscle was dying.  To make matters worse, dad lives in a somewhat remote area of Montana, by the time the volunteer ambulance crew came, took him to a clinic with little expertise in heart attacks, and eventually to a larger hospital, a lot of his heart was damaged.  Today only 25% of his heart functions.  Luckily, that 25% is enough for him to live life with grace, happiness, and enough energy to walk me down the aisle last August. 

I tell you the story of my dad Tom because it is a perfect example of why I do what I do for the AHA and why that work is so critical in Montana.  Over the last 10 months, the AHA has dedicated several new staff members and millions of dollars to improve our cardiac care system in Montana.  We are doing this work through a project called Mission: Lifeline Montana. The aim of Mission: Lifeline is to equip ambulances and hospitals across the state with up-to-date equipment and increased communication skills in order to create better outcomes for people like my dad. 

Our family was lucky, we lived close enough to a large hospital that dad was saved in time.  This is not the case for hundreds of Montana families every year.  In Montana, your chances of receiving quality, guideline driven care during a heart attack are about 30%.  This means that people are dying unnecessarily and having poorer outcomes because of lack of a unified system of cardiac care across the state.  Mission: Lifeline Montana is going to improve this system. 

Our task force of Montana physicians, nurses, paramedics, and other medical professionals have been working diligently for the past 8 months to provide Montana with new guidelines to streamline care.  Additionally, we have awarded more than $875,000 to ambulance services and more than $864,000 to Montana hospitals to update their cardiac monitoring systems.  We will also be launching a public media campaign reminding people not to wait to call 9-1-1 when experiencing any signs and symptoms of a heart attack.  This is just the beginning of our work and I am grateful to be a part of an organization that is doing so much for Montanans.  To learn more about this life saving project go to

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Giving Thanks for a Great Year!

As fall draws to a close, we are taking the time to thank all of our volunteers and celebrating a great year. Together, You’re the Cure advocates, like you, successfully advocated for heart healthy and stroke smart policies in their communities and states. We could not achieve the positive change in our communities without each and everyone of you. We are truly thankful for all that you do!

Below are just a few of the accomplishments we are thankful for this year: 


  1. Six new states require CPR as a graduation requirement. That means over 1.1 million students will be trained in life-saving CPR every year! With your help, we can add even more states to this list!
  2. Twelve new states require newborn screening for congenital heart defects before they leave the hospital. The earlier we can detect an issue with these little hearts, the better chances at a healthy life. Thirty-two states now require this screening.
  3. A half-a-dozen states increased funding for heart disease and stroke related programs.
  4. Advocates from all over the country made their voice heard in Washington D.C. on issues from more physical education in school to increasing funding for more heart and stroke research.

Once again, thank you for all the work you have done this year and for years to come! We cannot wait to see what the next 12 months brings us, but with your help, we know we will improve the lives of heart and stroke patients across the country.

Want to learn more about what we do? Check out the video below and share it with others!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

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Montana October is Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month - Is Your Family Prepared for an Emergency?

Written by: Amanda (Andrews) Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

Imagine this scenario: you’re at home with your spouse when suddenly he falls to the ground. Would you know what to do, what to look for, how to help him?  Of course, you’d call 911, but there is something else that is crucial to his survival: CPR.   Every single second that he lies on the floor without intervention his heart muscle is dying.  An estimated 70% of Americans do not know CPR and could not save their spouse, parent, child, or friend, could you?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the U.S., many victims appear healthy with no known heart disease or other risk factors.  4 out of 5 cardiac arrests happen at home, if called on to administer CPR in an emergency, the life you save is likely to be someone at home: a child, a spouse, a parent or a friend.

Let’s Do Something About It!

We live in a place where the closest ambulance may be 30 minutes or more away.  When ordinary people, not just doctors and paramedics, know CPR, a victim’s survival rate can double, or even triple. Schools across the country are adding thousands of lifesavers to our communities by training their students, faculty and staff in CPR. In fact, laws in 14 states require CPR training for high school graduation.  Why shouldn’t Montana be a state where thousands of young adults become potential life savers every year?

Let’s talk to our teachers, school boards, school districts, and legislators and let them know we need CPR to be taught in schools.  A simple 20 minute training is proven to teach a young person the skills they need to successfully administer CPR.  We need to start having this conversation and to start teaching our young Montanans CPR- your life might just depend on it. 

If you are interested in seeing how you can help our efforts, please contact Amanda Andrews at  or contact Grassroots Director Grace Henscheid.

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