- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A $4.6 million charitable donation will fund a three-year project that aims to improve the emergency medical response to acute heart attacks in rural areas of Montana, American Heart Association officials said Monday.

The donation from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will create a three-year “Mission: Lifeline” project in Montana similar to those already funded in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota and Nebraska.

The $4.6 million is expected to pay for the first three years of the program, which will identify gaps that lead to slower and less effective cardiac patient care, according to the heart association.

A main goal is to equip hospitals and emergency responders with mobile equipment and training. The mobile electrocardiogram heart machines can help diagnose heart attacks caused by total artery blockage, which are often deadly without quick treatment.

One machine can cost $25,000.

Those heart attacks are called ST-elevated myocardial infarction episodes, or STEMI. Nearly 1,800 people in Montana were hospitalized with heart attacks in 2012, and 777 of those were STEMI cases, according to state health officials.

About two-thirds of STEMI patients don’t receive the best available treatments to restore blood flow, heart association officials said.

Another aim will be to streamline protocols and processes with a systemwide data tool, improved collaboration among health providers and a public-education campaign.

The donation was announced at the Montana Capitol on Monday by Gov. Steve Bullock, Kathy Rogers of the American Heart Association and Walter Panzirer of the Helmsley Charitable Trust.