May 13, 2014
RALEIGH – On the eve of the legislative short session, a legislative study commission releases its 2014 Annual Report. Recommendations of the Child Fatality Task Force are submitted to the Governor and General Assembly. Over the past 23 years recommendations advanced by policymakers and enacted into law have helped contribute to a 45% decline in the child death rate
“Growing the prosperity of our state depends on assuring that our next generation grows up healthy, safe and strong. While the Task Force offers a sustained and strategic focus on strategies to prevent child death and promote well-being, the Governor, legislators and other policy-makers are the leaders who ultimately translate these recommendations into policies that save the lives of children,” said Karen McLeod, co-chair of Child Fatality Task Force and President/CEO of Benchmarks.
The recommendations of the Task Force cover a broad spectrum of causes of child death – including infant mortality, violence and unintentional injury. Since two-thirds of all child deaths are to babies before their first birthdays, the CFTF has a number of recommendations to promote healthy birth outcomes.
For example, the CFTF recommends one-time funding for a facility to serve high-risk pregnant women and their children. UNC Horizons is a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program for NC pregnant and/or parenting women and their children. UNC Horizons serves women from every corner of NC with evidence-informed interventions for substance abuse and critical wrap-around services. They also conduct research and train professionals around the state and the nation.
“This is a cross cutting issue. Substance abuse, especially of prescription drugs, is a growing problem in the North Carolina and the nation. Unintentional poisoning has increased greatly among teens over the past several years,” noted Dr. Peter Morris, Child Fatality Task Force Co-Chair and Executive Director of Urban Ministries of Wake County. “Now we are also seeing more and more babies born with substances in their system. These children are at risk for sleep, irritability and other behavioral issues and thus parenting may be challenging. Intervening at this critical point around birth can help save and improve lives.”
The Task Force also recommends on-going funding for existing, key infant mortality prevention programs that address every aspect of infant mortality, including preconception, pregnancy, birth, and first-year-of-life with a focus on geographic areas of high need as well as a one-time appropriation to the Perinatal Quality Collaborative of NC to implement data systems around a new screening requirement to detect certain treatable heart defects. Another recommendation to reduce infant mortality is for the Division of Medical Assistance to consider coverage of lactation consulting to support new mothers in their efforts to breastfeed. This is expected to save at least 14 lives and save more than $2 million annually.
Other recommendations include assuring safe drug disposal from take-back events and permanent drop boxes, banning youth from using commercial tanning beds, and further study of how to support adopted families.
In addition to detailing the issues reviewed by the CFTF over the past year and previous accomplishments, the Annual Report highlights the need to assure that each public dollar invested in children’s programs produces maximum return to further improve child outcomes and reduce fatalities. Careful evaluation can provide important answers about whether or not NC is getting the maximum return from any given investment by assuring that only best practice programs are used and by concentrating investment in an array of evidence-informed programs across the continuum of need and care in a way that promotes equity.
These recommendations represent more than 1,300 hours of volunteer input from diverse experts including policy-makers, doctors and other medical professionals, child welfare experts, law enforcement, educators, local leaders and others. Elizabeth Hudgins, executive director of the Child Fatality Task Force, thanked them, noting “more than 11,000 additional children are alive today due to the efforts of these experts, concerned policy-makers, and committed individuals putting these policies into practice. That hard work, time and dedication has translated to roughly the equivalent of helping as many kids reach their 18th birthday over the past two decades as the current freshmen classes at the universities of Appalachian State, East Carolina and North Carolina State combined.”
In 1991, the NC General Assembly adopted a child fatality prevention system. This system includes the NC Child Fatality Task Force, the policy arm of the system; the State Child Fatality Prevention Team (under the direction of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner), which reviews individual cases and identifies statewide trends; and local child fatality prevention teams in all 100 counties, which review local cases and recommend local changes needed to prevent future child deaths. For more information about the Child Fatality Task Force, please see http://www.ncleg.net/DocumentSites/Committees/NCCFTF/Homepage/.
Dr. Peter Morris, Co-chair, 919-414-5050
Karen McLeod, Co-chair, 919-828-1864
Elizabeth Hudgins, Executive Director, 919-707-5626 (cell 919-218-1758)