The County Voice

Santa Clara County Officials ♥ Collaboration

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Santa Clara County resident Stephanie Martinson is on a mission. Her goal is simple: saving lives. Stephanie’s route is taking her across local government jurisdictional lines – from school districts to cities to the County. Toss in health-care nonprofits as well as the private sector, and Helen Keller’s quote has come alive in the South Bay.

Stephanie is the founder of Racing Hearts, a Santa Clara County-based nonprofit aimed at ensuring automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are ready and available at all high-risk community locations to help save lives. She is quick to rattle off statistics showing how AEDs can significantly improve the chances of surviving cardiac arrest.

Her passion and drive are paying off; Santa Clara County is collaborating with its cities, school districts and health-care community to purchase and house AEDs at sites around the County where they might be needed most, including in patrol cars.

Stephanie quickly points to this collaboration as a reason for the program’s success. “The collaboration is so powerful. We could never do what we are doing without the support of the public sector,” she explains. “When we collaborate and share ideas, we really can move things forward.”

AEDs can save lives. During a sudden cardiac arrest, a defibrillator will deliver an electric shock to the heart to restore its normal rhythm. The AEDs being sited around the County are so simple to use, youths are being trained on them.

Santa Clara County became involved in 2014 when Supervisor Joe Simitian pushed forward a pilot program. Seeing the success of the pilot, Supervisor Cindy Chavez proposed a countywide program that was unanimously approved by the Board last fall. The county allocated $500,000 – to be matched by local cities and schools, resulting in a $1 million investment in the life-saving equipment. The result: Racing Hearts has now placed 500 AEDs at strategic locations around the county.

“The availability and use of AEDs may make the difference between a person being transported to a trauma center or emergency room for treatment rather than being transported for the determination of death,” says Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

For the countywide program to be comprehensive, though, it needed all groups to be marching in the same direction.  It’s no surprise that the leader of the band is Stephanie Martinson, who suffers from an enlarged heart and has undergone eight surgeries.

“In working with Racing Hearts, we sought to take advantage of the expertise and nimbleness of a small, highly specialized nonprofit to improve our EMS cardiac response program,” explains Supervisor Simitian. “The result has been a greater level of collaboration among all regional stakeholders than we imaged was possible at the outset.”

Stephanie also took her cause to the State Capitol last year; she was behind SB 658 by Senator Jerry Hill that reduces the requirements placed upon AED owners to qualify for the Good Samaritan protections in the state. Governor Brown signed it into law in late September.

She would also like to see the AED program expand to other California counties — and Racing Hearts is gearing up staff in preparation.  “I want to see the impact we have had in Santa Clara County to be statewide,” Stephanie proclaims.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager, who serves on the CSAC Executive Committee, agrees. “Counties interested in adding a valuable layer of protection for their residents should consider a matching grant arrangement for AEDs. Since Santa Clara County made the decision to provide matching funds, we’ve had a terrific response.  There’s a lot of untapped potential out there for placing these life-saving devices.  Many of our partners just needed a nudge,” he says.

It’s safe to say that Santa Clara County collaboration.

For more information about Racing Hearts, call (650) 308-4183 or email

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