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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Date: July 1, 2020

Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936, (406) 461-3757, jebelt@mt.gov
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391, (406) 461-8367, hcouncil@mt.gov


DPHHS Releases Report on Preventing Child Fatalities in Montana

 Today, Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Director Sheila Hogan released the Department’s 2019 Child Fatality Prevention Report.

Montana’s child fatality rate is lower than the national average,” Hogan said. “We at DPHHS continue to build and support our community partnerships as we all work to prevent child abuse and neglect in our communities.” 

 In 2019, there were 17 fatalities of children known to the child welfare system. The primary three causes of death were: unsafe sleep for infants (5), medical-related conditions (4), and abuse and neglect (3).

The remaining causes included drowning, a car accident, a firearm and SIDS. There were an additional seven deaths reported of children who were not known to the Montana child welfare system. DPHHS learned of the children when it was notified immediately after the fatalities. The main causes of those fatalities include drowning (2), abuse and neglect (2), and unsafe sleep (1), choking (1), and undetermined (1).

The 2019 data shows a 20% decrease in unsafe sleep fatalities since 2017, from seven fatalities to five. This follows a targeted campaign launched by DPHHS in 2018 called the First Years Initiative, which focused on provided targeted resources and education to parents with young children. The Department also partnered with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies-MT to distribute more than 1,500 cribs for safe sleep and recently announced the Safe Sleep Initiative in June 2020.

The 2019 data also showed water safety as an area for increased focus—with two known drownings outdoors and an infant drowning in a bathtub. With more Montanans getting outside this summer, DPHHS is launching a joint campaign with Fish, Wildlife & Parks to support having fun safely around water.

DPHHS is contributing more than 300 children’s life jackets for distribution at loaner life jacket stations across Montana and will be broadcasting PSAs about staying safe with kids around water, including assigning one adult to closely watch the kids, putting lifejackets on all kids, and learning CPR.

Lastly, with seven fatalities of children not­­ known to the Department until after their deaths, DPHHS has launched PSAs to ensure Montanans know how and where to report suspected abuse or neglect by calling the Hotline at: 1-866-820-KIDS (5437).

If you or someone you know suspects child abuse or neglect, call the Montana Abuse and Neglect Hotline at: 1-866-820-KIDS (5437).

Kids Don't Float