MONTANA, September 16, 2020 — The American Heart Association has announced the launch of its Mission: Lifeline Stroke initiative to strengthen the full spectrum of stroke care in Montana. The foundation of this new initiative is a three-year grant of $4.8 million from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

“Mission: Lifeline Stroke is the American Heart Association’s program for transforming stroke care,” said Kathy Rogers, Executive Vice President Western States, American Heart Association. “By creating a seamless and comprehensive system of care, we are able to improve stroke outcomes for patients. We are immensely grateful for the generous support of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, and for its commitment in helping us create longer, healthier lives in Montana.”

Mission: Lifeline Stroke focuses on connecting all 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. It brings together hospitals, emergency medical services and first responders, communications and regulatory agencies, state and local government, and payers to forge a proactive system of stroke care that saves and improves lives.

In Montana, where over half the population lives in rural areas, access to stroke neurologists is only available at urban hospitals and through limited telestroke programs. This grant will support the current statewide Montana Stroke Initiative to address gaps in the consistent delivery of high-quality stroke care, ensuring that all stroke patients in Montana have the best chance at survival and independent quality of life. 

“This initiative represents a significant investment in Montana’s stroke system of care,” said Greg Holzman, MD, MPH, State Medical Officer, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. “This grant will allow us to focus not only on the acute treatment of stroke by helping hospitals treat stroke more effectively, but it will also strive to improve stroke recovery and rehab in both our large and small communities. We are confident the result will be better outcomes for patients, and we’re deeply appreciative to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for its generous support of this program.”

Cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart conditions, is the leading cause of death in the United States. Stroke requires time-sensitive treatment to save lives and reduce lasting disability. In rural areas, long distances to health care make timely treatment an even greater challenge. Stroke is the fifth most prevalent cause of death in Montana, with more than 1,800 strokes annually accounting for nearly 420 deaths. Many more Montanans 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. “Where you live should never dictate the quality of medical care available, especially in an emergency,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “A comprehensive approach is the best way to make the most substantial impact, especially for rural populations that face longer transit times and limited access to specialists, which is why we continue to support Mission: Lifeline.”

The stroke program in Montana builds upon prior success with this approach. In 2018, the Helmsley Charitable Trust provided a $4.6 million grant to support the launch of Mission: Lifeline STEMI in Montana 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. Strengthening care requires a system-wide, data-driven quality improvement approach to address many similar triaging, transfer, and treatment challenges in time-sensitive stroke care.

“This ongoing commitment from the Helmsley Charitable Trust will directly touch the lives of all Montanans and for this I am very grateful,” said Kurt Lindsay, MD, a Neurology Specialist in Kalispell. “The Mission: Lifeline Stroke initiative will help us better coordinate stroke care, from the time of onset to treatment. Stroke treatment is time-sensitive, so getting patients the proper treatment faster, is crucial. This investment is going to be particularly impactful in our rural areas.”

Survivor, Dorinda Troutman, knows first-hand the importance of time. Suffering a stroke in 2018, Dorinda is grateful for programs like Mission: Lifeline Stroke. “Programs like Mission: Lifeline will save lives across Montana. If it weren’t for the care, and the timing of the care I received, I might not be here today,” said Troutman.

Mission: Lifeline Stroke will build upon the gains achieved by the existing Montana Stroke Initiative by further strengthening the collaboration with stakeholders across the state representing hospitals, individual ambulance services, the Montana Department of Health & Human Services, 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;
  • A public education campaign focused on recognition of stroke signs and symptoms and the need to activate the 9-1-1 system; and
  • The development of consistent quality standards for post-acute stroke rehabilitation and recovery care.

Since 2010, the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program has committed over $50 million to American Heart Association’s statewide Mission: Lifeline projects in the Upper Midwest. This includes Mission: Lifeline STEMI projects in seven states from 2010 to 2016, and the launch of Mission: Lifeline Stroke in North Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana. Helmsley’s investments to improve health in Montana total over $80 million.

About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on, Facebook, Twitter. or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

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 $2.8 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 $460 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


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