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Bill named for Roane County football player in West Virginia Senate

Law would require AEDs at sporting events

CHARLESTON — As the 2020 session of the West Virginia Legislature winds down, a bill named for a Roane County football player who died after collapsing during a game last season awaits a vote in the Senate.

House Bill 4497, called the Alex Miller Law, would require automatic external defibrillators to be on school or event grounds for every high school or middle school athletic event or practice sanctioned by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission. AEDs are portable devices that deliver an electrical charge to revive someone suffering from cardiac arrest.

It was introduced in the House of Delegates, where it passed 100-0 on Feb. 26. It’s scheduled for a third reading and vote in the Senate today, the session’s final day.

Miller, 17, died in September after collapsing during Roane County High School’s game against Clay County. While the use of an AED wouldn’t necessarily have made a difference in that situation, Roane County Schools Superintendent Richard Duncan called the legislation “a good way to remember Alex and promote safety for future students.

“Anytime we’re talking the safety of students … we’d rather be proactive than second-guess whether a measure’s needed or not,” he said.

Duncan said there is at least one AED at every school in the district.

To comply with the legislation, “we may have to get some additional ones because of the distance, say, between the football stadium and the high school,” he said.

There are 298 middle and high schools in West Virginia, and the SSAC has purchased and placed AEDs at 191, said Delegate Martin “Rick” Atkinson, R-Roane, a co-sponsor of the bill. Other schools have purchased and installed AEDs or had them donated, he said.

The goal of the legislation is to make sure the devices are readily available at all schools and honor Miller, Atkinson said, adding that he used to work with the boy’s father.

“He was just a top-notch individual, a great young man,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson called the bill a life-saving measure and noted it could help more than just student-athletes.

“More likely it’s going to be a fan or a coach or the ref,” said Bernie Dolan, executive director of the SSAC. “We think it’s a good thing.”

Dolan said there will be an added expense to purchase the devices, but “it’s just something people will have to budget for.”

Atkinson said AEDs cost $725 per unit and some periodic maintenance would also be required.

“Basically, these are all small prices to pay if we could help someone,” he said.

Duncan said he expects schools may get assistance from their communities.

“In the wake of Alex’s death, we found that organizations were reaching out to help us defray some of the costs” for such equipment, he said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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