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MDHHS program is training emergency responders on expanding infant safe sleep practices

A Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) program launched in 2022 is helping protect Michigan infants by training emergency responders on safe sleep practices to assist them as they interact with families to remove hazards from a child’s sleep environment. Since the Infant Safe Sleep Certification Program for EMS Agencies and Fire Departments was launched, 17 emergency medical service (EMS) agencies and fire departments have been certified, more than 800 providers have been trained in infant safe sleep and more than 160 families have been reached.

“This innovative collaboration supports the development of education plans, provider trainings, access to infant safe sleep resources, connections to local safe sleep experts and provides wraparound services for families in need,” said Elizabeth Hertel, director. “Providers are trained to identify unsafe infant sleep environments, inform families about infant safe sleep practices and set up pack and plays in the home.”

A Michigan baby dies every two to three days due to sleep-related causes – following safe sleep steps can help prevent these types of deaths. The program was developed through a collaboration between the Bureau of Emergency Preparedness, EMS and Systems of Care, EMS for Children Program and the Division of Maternal and Infant Health, Infant Safe Sleep Program with support from the Children's Safety Network Learning Collaborative to help prevent these deaths.

The Grand Rapids Fire Department was the first department to be certified in July 2022, and since then, with the support of the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) Infant Safe Sleep Program, four more agencies and departments have become certified in the county. The KCHD believes their infant safe sleep program provides important education and resources which contribute to the decrease in infant deaths from unsafe sleep.

"The Kent County Health Department’s Infant Safe Sleep Program has empowered fire departments and EMS agencies within our county to take proactive steps in protecting the youngest and most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Grand Rapids Fire Department Lieutenant Jim Betz. “The State’s certification program has allowed our coalition to assist multiple agencies with educating their members to recognize and address potentially unsafe sleep practices. Since becoming Safe Sleep certified the Grand Rapids Fire Department has performed more than 35 safe sleep interventions, allowing our members to leave behind informational packets, correct unsafe sleep practices and connect families to needed resources via our outstanding partners at the Kent County Health Department." 

EMS agencies and fire departments wishing to learn more can visit Michigan.gov/SafeSleep, visit this webpage or email MDHHS-InfantSafeSleep@michigan.gov.

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