Gov. Polis signs two bills during stop in Steamboat

Each bill hopes to improve outcomes for patients in medical emergencies

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis shakes hands before a bill signing ceremony at Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue’s Mountain Station on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Polis stopped in Steamboat to sign two bills designed to improve outcomes for people experiencing cardiac arrest.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis stopped in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday, June 1, to sign two bills that seek to improve outcomes for people experiencing medical emergencies.

Rep. Dylan Roberts, who represents Routt and Eagle counties, is a sponsor on both bills. Roberts said each bill started by working with constituents in his district.

“This is a great example of a lot of the work that we do at the legislature every year,” said Roberts, a Democrat from Avon. “They’re not very controversial, at least politically, but they are based in policy and are trying to change the way things work in the state.”

The first bill, Senate Bill 22-225, will create a task force to study ambulance services in Colorado and recommend a statewide licensing program to ensure sustainability of the industry long term. The bill also brings oversight of ambulance agencies under the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Roberts said the idea came from conversations with paramedics in Routt and Eagle counties. Tim Dienst, the chief executive officer of Ute Pass Regional Health Service District in Woodland Park, helped shape the bill. He said it is mainly about bringing consistency to EMS systems across the state.

Dienst said the task force would focus on ensuring ambulance coverage across the state, especially in rural areas like Northwest Colorado. The task force hopes to make recommendations that will make ambulance services more sustainable.

“Why do we always transport patients by the most expensive means — an ambulance — to the most expensive place — a hospital emergency department — when there are so many other options available?” Dienst asked. “We can be so much more than just (an ambulance). We need to build a system, improve the system and pay for the system.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs Senate Bill 22-225, which will create a task force to study the state’s ambulance services, during a ceremony on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Steamboat Springs. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, left, and Chief Executive Officer of Ute Pass Regional Health Service District Tim Dienst also attended the signing ceremony.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The task force will start working on a report on the state of Colorado’s EMS services and then make five recommendations about better ways to regulate these agencies, address access disparities, respond to workforce and recruiting issues, and ensure the financial stability of these services.

“What this bill will do is create a statewide funding source for places like Moffat County and other smaller counties that can apply for funding and help build up their programs so they can serve more people,” Roberts said.

The second bill Polis signed, House Bill 22-1251, establishes the Office of Cardiac Arrest Management, which will collect data on incidents of cardiac arrest across the state and look for strategies to increase the survivability for patients.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks during a bill signing at Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue’s Mountain Station on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Before Eagle County resident Lynn Blake survived an incident of cardiac arrest at age 27, she said she didn’t know much about it.

Now she runs the nonprofit Starting Hearts, which in 2019 worked to create the Statewide Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival or CARES. The registry recorded instances of cardiac arrest around the state but had trouble connecting that data to survival outcomes.

“It’s voluntary and agencies have a choice whether they want to participate or not,” Blake said, referring to how things operate currently. “The state will actually be collecting official data on cardiac arrest, which it was not. … If we don’t have the data, how do we know if we are improving?”

Blake said cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the state, though until now it hasn’t been tracked.

Roberts said the bill will help cut red tape with collecting this data and allow the state to hire a coordinator to create an awareness program teaching people how to use an automatic external defibrillator.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs House Bill 22-1251, creating the Office of Cardiac Arrest Management while bill sponsor Rep. Dylan Roberts, D- Avon, left, and cardiac arrest survivor Lynn Blake, right, look on on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Polis included a signing statement with this bill that notes he opposes creating a new state office in most cases and would have preferred that more funding be given to existing programs.

Still, the statement says Polis opted to sign the bill because he believes it will significantly advance CDPHE’s effort to track cardiac arrest deaths.

“We need equipment like defibrillators and other awareness around what to do when there’s a sudden cardiac arrest,” said Polis, who was also in Steamboat for a campaign event. “This bill will help the state do that. It’ll help save lives by proactively educating people about actions to take during a cardiac arrest.”

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