American Heart Association and Helmsley Announce $5.6 Million Commitment to Expand and Enhance Stroke Care in North Dakota

Bismarck, ND—The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has announced a statewide commitment of $5.6 million for its Mission: Lifeline Stroke initiative to expand and enhance stroke care in North Dakota. The foundation of this new initiative is a three-year grant of $4.3 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 North Dakota’s stroke system of care, especially in our rural areas,” said Mylynn Tufte, North Dakota State Health Officer. “We are grateful to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for its commitment to important, lifesaving services to our citizens through the generous support for 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.

This is the latest in a series 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, trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

In 2011, the Helmsley Charitable Trust provided a $4.4 million grant to support the launch of Mission: Lifeline STEMI in North Dakota 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 North Dakotans and for this I am very grateful,” said Shiraz Hyder, MD, a neurologist at CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck and the Chair of the North Dakota Stroke System of Care Taskforce. “The Mission: Lifeline Stroke initiative will help us better coordinate stroke care, which will mean better outcomes for patients, and more lives saved. Time is brain when someone is having a stroke, so getting patients proper treatment faster, especially in rural areas, is crucial.”

Mission: Lifeline Stroke will build upon the gains achieved in the past 10 years of successful work by the existing North Dakota Stroke Task Force by further strengthening the collaboration with stakeholders across the state representing hospitals, individual ambulance services, the North Dakota 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;
  • Regional plans for rapid transport and/or inter-facility transfer of patients;
  • Strategies for reducing barriers to access and quality of telemedicine and rehab care;
  • Development of a rural 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.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association launched Mission: Lifeline in South Dakota in July 2010. From 2010 through 2016, Helmsley has committed nearly $37 million in funding for Mission: Lifeline projects in North Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, and South Dakota. With the recent award for the Mission: Lifeline Stroke project in North Dakota, the total Helmsley commitment to Mission: Lifeline projects is over $41 million.

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 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 $1.8 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 $320 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

In North Dakota, Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program has awarded over $54 million in grants for telemedicine, cardiac and cancer care, medical equipment, workforce training through Simulation in Motion, and advocacy and education efforts.