Sarasota County Recognizes Infant Safe Sleep Month

For Immediate Release:
October 9, 2015

Sarasota County Recognizes Infant Safe Sleep Month
Safe Sleep Sarasota initiative aims to reduce child deaths due to unsafe sleep

SARASOTA – Unsafe sleep is the leading cause of death for children under the age of one in Florida. In 2014 over 130 Florida infants died as a result of unsafe sleep practices, including four in Sarasota County. In response to these deaths, The Safe Sleep Sarasota initiative, a collaboration of 13 different agencies, was created to address this issue and prevent future infant fatalities.

On Sept. 22, the Sarasota County Commission proclaimed October “Infant Safe Sleep Month,” in recognition of this problem and the collaborative effort local organizations have made to address it. Collaborative organizations include: The Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County, The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, Children First, Early Learning Coalition, Family Safety Alliance, Healthy Families / The Florida Center, Safe Children Coalition, The Sarasota Y, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Safe Kids, and the Child Protection Center.

Since the launch of the Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative in 2014, Sarasota County has reported only one fatality due to unsafe sleep conditions, a major decline from previous years.

“It is absolutely heart-wrenching to learn of each young, precious life lost to this tragically preventable cause,” says Shon Ewens, Executive Director for the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County. “We started seeing an increase in unsafe sleep and SUIDS [Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome] related deaths and knew we just had to do something about it.”

The initiative has three components: providing education to childcare sites, providing education to parents and the community at-large, and providing safe sleep kits to families in need. Since its relaunch, 53 child care sites have been trained in Safe Sleep practices. Each site then provided training for their staff and education for parents. Another 65 professionals (Child Protection Investigators, case workers, etc.) received training so they can provide up-to-date evidence-based education for their clients. More professional trainings are underway this month.

Additionally, the initiative has provided 75 safe sleep kits, including education on proper use, to 70 families who would otherwise not have a safe, designated place for their baby to sleep. Each safe sleep kit contains a pack n’ play, crib sheet with a safe sleep message, Halo sleep sack, two pacifiers, and information about how to create a safe sleep environment for their infants. Funding for Safe Sleep Kits was provided by the Ruth DeLynn Emerging Needs Fund at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, as well as through private donations.

The newest strategy has been the addition of a Hospital Pledge for new moms who attend Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s discharge class. This includes a thorough Safe Sleep component. Families who sign the pledge will receive a certificate and educational materials.

The Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative was launched at a press conference on October 30, 2014 with Florida Surgeon General, Dr. John Armstrong, and Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, Mike Carroll, in attendance. This program, including the safe sleep kits and education, is funded entirely by grants and donations. If you would like to learn more about the Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative, get involved, or make a donation, visit:

Ciera Coleman, Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota, 941-373-7070 ext. 303
Natalie Harrell, Department of Children and Families, 813-337-5854

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