County is set to launch‘Cribs for Kids’ program

LISBON –The newest program to help the poor is free portable cribs for about 200 income-eligible households, which officials hope will reduce infant deaths.

Columbiana County Department of Job and Family Services Director Eileen Dray-Bardon met with county commissioners last week to receive the board’s approval to proceed with the new Cribs For Kids program launched in conjunction with the county health department.

Health Commissioner Wes Vins told commissioners the state budget set aside money to help reduce infant deaths. The funding focus is on the counties with the highest infant mortality rate, and Columbiana County is not among them. The statewide average was 7.4 infant deaths per 1,000 population in 2016, and the county’s rate was 5.

Undeterred, Vins began thinking about coming up with a local program to address the problem, but the health department did not have the money. He approached Dray-Bardon, who agreed to provide funding.

“I think it’s a good marriage of our funds and our mission,” she said.

They decided to focus on sleep-related infant deaths (with infants defined as no more than one year old), because 17 percent of such deaths in Ohio are believed to be sleep related. Commissioner Mike Halleck asked what that meant, and Vins and Dray-Bardon said it can be many things, such as parents who sleep with their infants and accidentally roll over on them. Dray-Bardon said there have been 8 to 10 such deaths in the county in the 20 years she has been director.

Dray-Bardon said infant sleeping practices have also changed since she was a new mother. Parents are now told to place their babies in sleep sacks instead of using blankets to keep them warm and lay them on their backs instead of letting infants sleep on their sides or stomachs. Cribs should be free of blankets, stuffed animals and toys.

Cribs for Kids participants will receive a Pack ‘n Play and a video on safe-sleeping practices, along with personal instructions from health department staff. Clients will be referred to the health department by the local Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, whose clients must not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level ($45,510 annual income for a household of 4).

The JFS will provide up to $30,390 in federal public assistance funding for the program, which will be administered by the health department. Vins said half the money will be used to purchase the portable cribs and related materials, with the rest covering the health department’s administrative expenses.

“If we can save one child it’s worth it,” he said.