Damar Hamlin, NFL on Capitol Hill for AED bill shaped by Scripps News 

U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Florida) introduced the Access to AEDs Act, which she said was shaped by a Scripps News investigation.
Posted at 10:52 AM, Mar 29, 2023

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was on Capitol Hill Wednesday as lawmakers announced new legislation to increase access to automatic external defibrillators in schools. It's a tool that proved critical to saving his own life earlier this year.

“Every kid should have the same access to a lifesaving emergency response that I did,” Hamlin told a room of other athletes, officials from the NFL and the American Heart Association, and parents who lost their children to sudden cardiac arrest. 

“As a mom and a member of Congress, I'm on a mission to expand lifesaving health care and tools for our children in every school,” said U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Florida) as she introduced the Access to AEDs Act.  

The Congresswoman said her bipartisan legislation, which also has the backing of MLB, NBA, NHL and NCAA, was shaped by a Scripps News investigation that ran in January, revealing far too many U.S. schools are underprepared in cardiac emergencies. 

A memorial for Matthew Mangine Jr., who died after a sudden cardiac arrest in June 2020 in Erlanger, Ky.

An AED saved Damar Hamlin's life, but is your child's school ready?

A Scripps News investigation found an alarming number of cardiac arrests in schools where no AED was applied before EMS arrived.


In an astounding 40% of cardiac arrests Scripps News examined in U.S. schools over the last three years, life-saving AEDs went unused in the precious minutes before emergency crews arrived. In some cases, children died.   Cherfilus-McCormick was struck by the tragic death of Kentucky high schooler Matthew Mangine Jr. after his story was featured in Scripps News’ January report. During a soccer practice in 2020, the teenager dropped to the ground in sudden cardiac arrest. His father, Matt Mangine Sr., said an AED was just 250 feet away, but no one ever grabbed it.  Matt Mangine Sr., who the Congresswoman invited to speak at the event, said the legislation would be part of his son’s legacy.

“I also want to tell you how joyous I am to see you here, DeMar,” Matt Mangine Sr. said. “All I could think about was your parents, because I knew what they were going through that evening.”  

The Mangines told Scripps News in January they believed cardiac emergency drills should be required at schools, just like fire or tornado drills. But at that time, we found only five states required some kind of AED drill.  

Last month, Cherfilus-McCormick pledged she would address that training gap – something researchers say can be the difference between life and death.   

“We see so many students who have cardiac arrest on the field, and the first instinct for everyone is panic. And the truth of the matter is, we're not having annual trainings, we're not having enough of the AED machines at schools, at practices,” she said Wednesday.  

“And so our goal today is to make sure we are normalizing heart health and actually lifesaving access to AEDS.” 

Republicans and Democrats stood side-by-side in support of the bill, saying that saving the lives of children is not a partisan issue. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Florida) said he lost one of his constituents in 2007.  

“There are very few ways that we can actually get engaged to prevent those deaths, and this is one of those ways,” Posey said. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, wearing a Buffalo Bills Hamlin jersey, said he’d use every tool his leadership position offers to help advance the legislation. 

“I'm going to use that weight to bring my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on board and get this bill to become a law and passed this year,” he said. 

Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick talks with Scripps News Senior National Correspondent Mark Greenblatt

Scripps News school AED probe gets attention in Congress

Rep. Cherfilus-McCormick, a Florida Democrat, will lead a bipartisan push for more school AEDs. The NFL & American Heart Association are endorsing.


A draft of the bill reviewed by Scripps News prior to its introduction said it would fund “CPR and AED training programs in (public elementary and secondary) schools for students, staff, and related sports volunteers.”  

Should it pass, the Act would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award up to $25 million in grants over five years to public schools for establishing or bolstering comprehensive AED programs on their campuses in consultation with “a qualified healthcare entity.” The money could be spent on training staff and students alike on how to use the devices, and could go toward buying new AEDs or replacing old ones. It could even help athletic departments screen student athletes for their risk of sudden cardiac arrest.   

The AED devices can cost less than $1,000 a piece, but after reviewing laws nationwide for the January report, Scripps News found 31 states did not have laws requiring AEDs be in schools.  

According to the American Heart Association, nine out of ten people don’t survive a sudden cardiac arreset outside of a hospital.  

“This is wrong,” said AHA’s CEO, Nancy Brown. “This can be changed. And this legislation is an important step on the journey to make that a reality.” 

The bill already has endorsements from a wide range of organizations including The American Heart Association, National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Women’s National Basketball Association, NASCAR, Major League Soccer, the NCAA, the National Alliance for Youth Sports, National Association of Secondary School Principals, and a number of EMS and other school-related organizations.   

“What we saw on Monday Night Football was muscle memory – we saw everybody jump into action,” said Matt Mangine Sr.

“That's what we need to teach our coaches and that's why we need to teach our young people,” he said. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children, including non-athletes, be screened at least every three years for heart conditions that could lead to cardiac arrests. For more information about what to discuss with your child's pediatrician, click here.  

You can email Mark.Greenblatt@Scripps.com and Carrie.Cochran@Scripps.com with questions about this story or other tips for a new investigation.