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Senate Passes Legislation to Enhance Stroke Care System

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The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday, July 23, 2020, unanimously passed legislation that will help lead to better care and treatment for individuals suffering from stroke.

“The Senate made it a priority this session to ensure our residents have adequate and equitable access to health care options, and this bill builds upon the hard work we have accomplished,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Time is a critical factor when seeking treatment for stroke patients and this potentially live-saving bill would better prepare our health care system so that we are doing it safely and efficiently.”

“In Massachusetts, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death, claiming 2,370 lives per year, according to the most recent data from the Department of Public Health (DPH), stated Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health. “Getting patients with strokes quickly to the appropriate hospital is critical to giving patients the best chance to survive. This bill will give DPH the tools to help EMS crews and hospitals work together to create a system where patients are given the highest opportunity to get the lifesaving care they need. This bill received the strong support of the Public Health Committee, and I hope it can get to the Governor and be signed into law before the end of this session.”

“Stroke is a chronic, deadly, and destructive disease that demands action from policymakers,” said Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford). “What is particularly troubling is that in many cases the death and disability is largely preventable. We must act now to implement necessary reforms so that our loved ones can receive the very best care and treatment. The things we can do now through this bill are pretty simple and reflect what many medical professionals agree are necessary to modernize our system of care. Lives are simply more important than the bottom line of any business or desire to maintain the status quo.”

“Stroke continues to take a terrible toll on its victims and their loved ones across the state and the nation; it continues to be a leading cause of death," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R -Gloucester). “Combating the impacts of stroke depends significantly on a timely response with effective measures, and this legislation creates a framework for that to happen.”

The bill, An Act to Prevent Death and Disability from Stroke, would:

Direct the Department of Public Health (DPH) and regional EMS councils to annually review protocols to ensure stroke patients are transported to care facilities best equipped to treat them;

Directs DPH to publicize regulations that create statewide standard pre-hospital care protocols and statewide criteria for designating hospitals in a tiered system;

Requires DPH to publicly post, and annually update, a designated list of stroke facilities on its website; and Establishes a Stroke Advisory Task Force to assist with data oversight, program management and advice regarding the stroke system of care in the Commonwealth

A stroke is caused by a disruption of blood supply to the brain. While stroke can cause disability or death, identifying the signs and getting immediate treatment can help reduce the long-term effects. Signs and symptoms may include face drooping, arm weakness and difficulty speaking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 140,000 Americans die each year of stroke. A 2017 survey of Massachusetts adults 35 and older, 3.5 percent of reported suffering from stroke.

The legislation now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.