By Marc Kovac
Coroners across the state soon will be required to report unexpected deaths of infants, thanks to legislation recently signed into law by Gov. John Kasich.
SB 278 was one of a handful of bills offered by Sens. Shannon Jones, a Springboro Republican, and Charleta Tavares, a Columbus Democrat, to draw attention to the problem of infant mortality and help women and health officials address the issue.
The new law requires coroners, deputy coroners or other designated officials to complete a “Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Reporting Form,” as provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or developed by the state health director.
Legislation that took effect earlier this year designating October as SIDS Awareness Month also encouraged the filing of such reports but did not require it.
The forms will be forwarded to local or regional child-fatality review boards, which work “to decrease the incidence of preventable child deaths,” according to an analysis by the state’s Legislative Service Commission.
“In order to monitor state trends, ascertain risk factors and design and evaluate programs to prevent these deaths, we need to have consistent reporting,” Tavares said in a statement concerning the bill.
According to information compiled by Jones and Tavares, Ohio ranks 48th in the country in the number of infants who die before their first birthday. Some 1,045 babies died within 12 months of birth in 2012.
The two lawmakers have offered other legislation to include Medicaid coverage for certain nonmedical postpartum services to eligible families, establish a two-year pilot project to provide further assistance through federally qualified health centers, create an infant-mortality commission to study state services and related issues and require additional information be provided to new parents about safe sleeping positions for babies.