Lives are being saved because California local governments are laboratories for innovation and efficiency. Recent improvements in how county health care systems respond to and treat strokes have improved recovery rates and provided patients with an easier road back to health.

Counties, in coordination with the California Department of Public Health, have begun certifying stroke treatment procedures. These procedures mandate that a patient have access to advanced imaging technology 24 hours a day. They also require access to a drug called tPA – which can destroy clots in the brain without invasive surgery, so long as it is administered within the first three hours of a stroke.

The first county in the state to have a hospital certified was Santa Clara in 2004, while most recent was Contra Costa County, which has certified nine hospitals since January 2nd. Statewide, of the 32 EMS regions, 11 have at least one stroke system in place.

Challenges remain bringing the program into full effectiveness in the rural counties, but using technology and distance medicine, officials are hopeful to bring more online soon.


Seventy-five-year-old Leigh Weimers realized his left arm wasn’t working when he tried to pull his Costco card out of his back pocket. Luckily, he also had another card that helped him understand what was happening to him – one from the Stroke Awareness Foundation that he picked up at a Rotary Club meeting. Weimers realized his numb arm was a sign of a stroke, so he asked his wife to take him to the hospital.

The moment he walked into the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center and said he was having a stroke, the staff scanned his brain. They quickly realized Weimers was right. A pool of blood was building up in his head. They immediately started treatment.

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