New Team to Review Unexpected Child Deaths in 6 Arkansas Counties

LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) - A new team will begin reviewing unexpected deaths of infants and children in Arkansas, Garland, Grant, Hot Spring, Jefferson and Saline counties in an effort to determine factors that caused or contributed to the deaths and identify ways to prevent similar occurrences. 

This team makes the sixth team to begin working in Arkansas as part of the state’s Infant and Child Death Review Program, which is required by Act 1818 of 2005 to review all unexpected deaths of children under 18 years of age. The program is overseen by the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children's Hospital. In addition to the counties above, the program reviews unexpected deaths in 22 other counties: Benton, Clay, Conway, Craighead, Crawford, Faulkner, Franklin, Greene, Johnson, Lawrence, Logan, Mississippi, Perry, Poinsett, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Scott, Sebastian, Van Buren, Washington and Yell counties. 

“Expansion of this Program enables us to review more cases and thus more accurately track trends and develop targeted prevention strategies,” said Dr. Pamela Tabor, director of the Infant and Child Death Review Program. “This will be the team that is furthest south in the state covering five counties with very diverse populations.”

The teams are made up of representatives from the local coroner’s office or the State Medical Examiner’s Office; local law enforcement, the prosecuting attorney’s office, the State Police Crimes Against Children Division, the Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services, Department of Health, Emergency Medical Services, and a medical professional. Additionally specialists, such as injury prevention and pediatric forensic medical doctors, consult on cases.

Saline County Coroner Kevin Cleghorn said he is hopeful that the expertise of those involved in the Program will help save the life of a child in his and neighboring counties in the future. 

 “I’ve seen first-hand how devastating the loss of a child can be for a family,” said Cleghorn. “If this team can identify some trends in these counties and then put some measures in place to prevent other families from experiencing that grief, this will be worth the effort.”

Tabor said the Program’s main focus is prevention. 

Since starting the program, she said teams have completed 97 reviews and determined that the top three causes of death are sudden unexplained infant death (39%), motor vehicle collisions and other transportation injuries (21%), and weapons (9%). Reviews of sudden unexplained infant death cases showed that in about one-third, unsafe sleep environments caused or contributed to the infant’s death. 

Click here for tips on preventing infant and child injuries and deaths from the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Injury Prevention Center's website.

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