By Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, Durham-Herald Sun
DURHAM – Over the next three years, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina will fund 150 Automated External Defibrillators and training for places of worship across the state, with 33 already lined up. BCBSNC President and CEO J. Bradley Wilson made the announcement Tuesday at First Calvary Baptist Church in Durham along with Strive to Revive partners the American Red Cross, the North Carolina Council of Churches and N.C. Rep. Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg).
The Strive to Revive campaign began two years ago in Charlotte and provided 20 AEDs. The current expansion is focused on congregations in areas with increased risk of heart disease and cardiac arrest, including women, African Americans, Latinos and senior citizens. So far, two Durham churches have received defibrillators – Mount Vernon Baptist Church and First Calvary Baptist Church. Both have predominantly African American congregations.
Carney’s cardiac arrest was the impetus behind Strive to Revive. A BCBSNC lobbyist was a first responder to Carney, who collapsed at her desk in the N.C. Legislative Building in April 2009 after sitting in on an insurance committee meeting. Mark Fleming, director of government affairs at the Chapel Hill-based health insurance provider, saw the impact of having an AED nearby that was used to save Carney’s life.
AEDs cost between $1,200 and $1,600, said Barry Porter, regional executive director of the American Red Cross. The BCBSNC grants will also fund Red Cross classes and materials for up to six people from each congregation to learn to use an AED, which is part of CPR training. An AED restores someone’s heart to normal rhythm, Porter said, while external compressions provide only 30 to 40 percent of heartbeats’ normal rhythm.
Representatives of the initial grant recipients attended Tuesday’s announcement, including Deborah Herbin, a member of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Reidsville. She has completed the training and enjoyed the class. She chairs her church’s outreach and nurture committee and said she wants to be prepared in case an AED is needed.
Congregations are identified through the N.C. Council of Churches. Preserving health is an issue of faith, said Rev. J. George Reed, executive director of the council.
Rev. Jerome Washington, pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist in Durham, said that having AEDs in worship makes perfect sense, especially with aging congregants.
“It saves lives. The faster we can get a response, it’s been proven can save lives,” Washington said. “In a perfect world, I’d like for every able-bodied member of our congregation to be aware of how it’s used, know CPR and what to do.”
Mt. Vernon has a volunteer congregational nurse, Thomasine Perry, who chairs the health care ministry. Perry, a registered nurse, said that its congregation – primarily African American and with many elderly members — is more susceptible to cardiac occurrences. Already, she has given CPR to a church member multiple times during worship services.
“This will definitely be an asset for us,” Perry said. “It’s definitely been needed for a long time.”
To apply To apply for the grant, visit www.healthandwholeness.org/str-grant-application. Preference will be given to congregations that meet criteria including serving a large proportion of women, African Americans, Latinos and/or seniors; congregations that are certified by the N.C. Council of Churches Partners in Health and Wholeness; and demonstrated need such as size, finances, use and access to medical facilities. The application deadline is Sept. 17.