YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The Youngstown Fire and Police departments are the first in the state to roll out an initiative that can save the smallest lives.
They’re getting trained on what safe sleep looks like as part of an effort to improve the infant mortality rate.
The Mahoning Valley has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the state.
Youngstown Health Commissioner Erin Bishop said three babies in Youngstown died last year due to unsafe sleep. This year already, one baby has died.
“It’s only March, so that is scary right off the bat,” Bishop said.
Monday, firefighters learned about things they can look for on calls that might indicate that there isn’t a safe sleep environment for the baby.
“We’re in an emergency situation, so they don’t prepare the home… We see the home as they are living,” said Youngstown Batallion Chief Gary Ditullio.
If firefighters see signs of an unsafe environment, they have cards to give to families that connect them with Cribs for Kids, which provides a free Pack ‘n Play for pregnant women and new moms.
Stephanie Weigel, injury prevention coordinator for Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, said the program isn’t about punishing those families. She said many families may not realize they have options.
“There will never be any negative repercussions for families that utilize this referral card,” she said. “They’ll just be getting a Pack ‘n Play and a way to keep baby safe.”
Weigel said the initiative gets results, pointing out how a county in Florida did a similar effort with first responders. Sleep-related deaths there decreased from 17 to three in a year.
Every Youngstown firefighter is going through the training. The city’s police department will receive the training next.
The goal is to roll the program out in Trumbull and Columbiana Counties, too.
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