It might have been one of Joseph Polisena’s proudest moments in his tenure as Mayor of Johnston.
“Tonight, I – along with members of the (RI) Department of Health, American Heart Association, Johnston Fire Department and members of the EMS present another first for our town,” Polisena began during Monday night’s Town Council inside the Municipal Courthouse. “We have been designated as a HEARTsafe community.”
That’s a title, Polisena pointed out, that Johnston achieved after a lengthy process that began back in April of 2017 and became official on Jan. 26 of this year when Johnston received an official letter from the Department of Health to become the 17th HEARTsafe Community in the state.
The HEARTsafe Community program, according to Capt. John Potvin, who doubles as of Director of Emergency Services with the East Providence Fire Department and is Chair of the EMS Work Group at the Department of health, explained Monday night: “The HEARTsafe program was established in 2007 by the Center for Chronic Care and Disease Management at the Department of Health that has worked with the American Heart Association to improve chance of survival for people suffering sudden cardiac events, such as heart attack and cardiac arrest.”
Polisena, who has 33 years experience as a nurse as well as extensive EMT service dating back to 1976 with the JFD, said: “Let me tell you that heart disease and death from heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States.”
The mayor, who is also a professor at CCRI where he teaches EMT and Fire Science, then added: “Heart disease also leads to stroke and hypertension and other cardiac anomalies.”
In order to become a HEARTSAFE Community, Johnston was required to certify as many citizens and municipal workers as possible during its application period.
Enter David Iannuccilli, a JFD Battalion Chief who heads the Department’s Emergency Management team, who proposed the HEARTsafe Community to Polisena back in 2017.
Now, under Iannuccilli’s skilled leadership, as Polisena emphasized Monday night, “We have certified groups such as the Johnston Police, recreation workers, volunteer coaches, Police Explorers, Boy Scout groups, high school athletes and coaches, school nurses and various school workers.”
The Mayor then quickly explained that “this has been done by Battalion Chief David Iannuccilli and his EMS team; the men and women of the Johnston Fire Department.”
Now, with the implantation of the HEARTsafe Program, Johnston has AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) in public buildings, schools, public athletic buildings and complexes, Town Hall, Police Department, Senior Center and Iannuccilli confirmed Monday there are a total of 66 AEDs throughout the town.
Also, the HEARTsafe Program will promote CPR/AED throughout the town and under Iannuccillit’s leadership a chain of survival plan has been set up for school and public buildings.
“This is very comforting to me knowing that Johnston residents and those who visit our town will be safe if the need arises and they need immediate CPR with AED intervention,” Polisena noted. “As you know, we have a huge elderly population and this is comforting for them as well as their families that if anything should happen they are in a HEARTsafe Community.”
He emphasized that “this recognition is not just a right to brag, but means that if one should have a heart attack in Johnston his or her chances of survival is greater because of our designation as a HEARTsafe Community.
Moreover, the mayor made it known, “we have purchased of the most state of the art pre-hospital care equipment to include new rescues, the latest technology in deliberation and other important life saving equipment and Chief Iannuccilli makes sure con-ed training is a continuous process because EMS medicine constantly changes.”
Polisena then heaped words of praise the Johnston Firefighters Union, Local 1950, who he publicly thanked saying “they have purchase many of the units that are in our public buildings and their generosity has not gone unnoticed by my administration. They have immersed themselves in our community when it comes to keeping residents and visitors safe in our great town.”
After Polisena concluded his presentation, he was presented four HEARTsafe Community signs from Potvin and Michele Barron-Magee from the Chronic Care and Disease Management at the RI Department of Health who represented Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott who signed the official letter confirming Johnston’s approval for the important program.
“Congratulations,” Alexander-Scott began in her letter to Iannuccilli. “We thank you for your participation and our designation as a HEARTsafe Community will be effective for three years, expiring January, 2021. Also, congratulations on your successful efforts to improve the Chain of Survival in your community and establish strong emergency cardiac care.”