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American Heart Association and the Helmsley Charitable Trust Announce $6.5 Million Commitment to Expand and Enhance Stroke Care in Nebraska

LINCOLN – The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has announced a statewide commitment of $6.5 million for its Mission: Lifeline Stroke initiative to expand and enhance stroke care in Nebraska. The foundation of this new initiative is a three-year grant of $5.35 million from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Mission: Lifeline is the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s community-based initiative to develop systems of care to improve outcomes for heart attack and stroke patients. These systems bring together hospitals, emergency medical services and first responders, communications and regulatory agencies, state and local government, and payors to provide a seamless plan of action to treat patients from the time of symptom onset through their rehabilitation and recovery process.

Mission: Lifeline Stroke specifically focuses on connecting all the components of acute stroke care into a smoothly integrated system that reinforces the use of evidence-based guidelines to timely and effectively treat stroke patients.

“This initiative represents a significant investment in Nebraska’s stroke system of care, especially in our rural areas,” said Senator Roy Baker. “We are grateful to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for its commitment to important, lifesaving services to our citizens through their generous support of this program.”

Cardiovascular disease, including heart and stroke conditions, is the leading cause of death in the United States. The acute nature of heart attacks and strokes is particularly deadly and requires time-sensitive treatment to save lives and reduce lasting disability. Stroke is the fourth most prevalent cause of death in Nebraska, with more than 3,400 strokes annually accounting for nearly 800 deaths. Approximately 37,000 Nebraskans (3 percent) are living with stroke-related disabilities.

This is the latest in a series of Helmsley investments in Mission: Lifeline’s system of care model for acute cardiac and stroke care. “We believe that a comprehensive approach is the best way to ‘move the needle,’ especially for rural populations that face longer transit times and limited access to specialists,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

In 2014, the Helmsley Charitable Trust provided a $4.1 million grant to support the launch of Mission: Lifeline STEMI in Nebraska to reduce treatment times for acute cardiac care in the cases of ST Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI). STEMI is the most serious type of heart attack and occurs when blood flow is completely blocked to a portion of the heart.

Every minute saved in heart attack and stroke treatment can directly improve survival and recovery rates. Streamlining care requires a system-wide quality improvement approach to address many similar triaging, transfer, and treatment challenges in time-sensitive stroke care.

“Through this ongoing commitment from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, we are directly impacting the lives of all Nebraskans and for this I am very grateful,” said James Bobenhouse, MD, a neurologist and stroke medical director at CHI St. Elizabeth’s and Bryan Health. “The Mission: Lifeline Stroke initiative will help us better coordinate stroke care, which will mean better outcomes for patients, and more lives saved. Stroke treatment is time-sensitive, so getting patients proper treatment faster, especially in rural areas, is crucial.” Each minute of onset-to-treatment time saved grants an average of 1.8 days of extra healthy life.

Survivor and American Heart Association volunteer, Jill Duis, knows first-hand the importance of time. Suffering a stroke in 1999, Duis is grateful for programs like Mission: Lifeline Stroke. “Programs like Mission: Lifeline will save lives all across Nebraska. If it weren’t for the care, and the timing of the care I received, I might not be here today,” said Duis.

Mission: Lifeline Stroke will build upon the gains achieved by the existing Nebraska Stroke Advisory Council (NSAC) by further strengthening the collaboration with stakeholders across the state representing hospitals, individual ambulance services, the Nebraska Department of Health, and others. The project will enhance many critical elements of an optimal stroke system of care, including:

    • A system-wide data tool to assess protocols used throughout the continuum of care;
    • Coordination of treatment guidelines for EMS and hospital personnel;
    • Local plans for rapid transport and/or inter-facility transfer of stroke patients;
    • Strategies for reducing barriers to access and quality of telemedicine and rehab care;
    • Peer-to-peer stroke survivor support network; and
    • A public education campaign focused on recognition of stroke signs and symptoms and the need to activate the 9-1-1 system.

From 2010 through 2016, Helmsley has committed nearly $37 million in funding for Mission: Lifeline STEMI projects in North Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, and South Dakota. In 2017, the first Mission: Lifeline Stroke project was awarded in North Dakota. With the recent award for the Mission: Lifeline Stroke project in Nebraska, the total Helmsley commitment to Mission: Lifeline projects through their Rural Healthcare Program is more than $46 million.


Shannon M. Hilaire, Communications Director, shannon.m.hilaire@heart.org, 402-651-3078

About the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association

The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association are devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $2.2 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program funds innovative projects that use information technologies to connect rural patients to emergency medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel. To date, this program has awarded more than $349 million to organizations and initiatives in the upper Midwest states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, and Montana. For more information on Helmsley and its programs, visit helmsleytrust.org.