New York moved closer this week to teaching students cardiopulmonary resuscitation in school when the Board of Regents took only 10 minutes to approve a report about adding the lifesaving skill to the curriculum.

The report was created by the New York Department of Education and it said that while curriculum matters should be overseen by local school districts, CPR instruction is an exception because lives are at stake.

“Who wouldn’t support this?” asked Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the Board of Regents on Monday. “Why would it be controversial?”

Adding CPR in Schools to the curriculum in New York is a multi-step process. The state passed legislation last year recommending be taught and it was signed into law in October. Now, the legislation must wind its way through the halls and approval processes of the state’s Department of Education and Board of Regents.

The next step is for the Department of Education to present regulations to the Board of Regents at their meetings on May 18 and 19. The regulations were requested by the Board of Regents at their last meeting, with the intention of making CPR training a requirement.

Once presented, the regulations then will be open for public comment prior to formal adoption.

The report presented by the Department of Education calculated the costs of teaching Hands-Only CPR to be between $1,000 and $11,000 per district, with an average cost of $3,000 for the first year.

“The cost is minor,” said Regent James Cottrell, an anesthesiologist based in Brooklyn, New York. He noted that the American Heart Association offeres lower-cost alternatives.

“To save one life would be worth the expense,” said Regent T. Andrew Brown of Rochester. “I attended a CPR training at a school in Greece, where they did a wonderful job at no expense.”

Aside from requiring that Hands-Only CPR be taught in schools, the legislation also requires that students be familiar with the use of automated external defibrillators.

“I’m so happy that I want to cry,” said Karen Acompora of Northport, who has worked for seven years on getting CPR added to the New York curriculum. She also worked to pass “Louis’ Law,” which placed AEDs in all of New York schools.

That legislation was named for Acompora’s son Louis, who was 14 when he died after a lacrosse ball struck him in the chest and stopped his heart.

“CPR is easy to teach and easy to learn. It takes just one class period. Sadly, about nine out of 10 victims of sudden cardiac arrest die.  This is good news today, that puts us closer to changing this grim statistic,” said Bob Elling, chair of the New York State Advocacy Committee of the American Heart Association.

Fewer than half of the roughly 326,000 Americans who have a cardiac arrest outside of the hospital each year get CPR from a bystander, and only about 10 percent survive.

Bystander CPR can double or triple survival rates from cardiac arrest. However, many people do not get help from bystanders who could provide CPR if they knew how. Teaching the skill in schools assures that people will be trained each year.

“School is a great equalizer, which is why CPR in schools is an integral part of the solution and will help increase bystander CPR across all communities and save more lives,” said Dianne Atkins, professor of Pediatrics at the University of Iowa.

There are 21 states that have passed legislation requiring the training for students, including: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Photo by Katherine McCarthy