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Calcasieu Safe Sleep Task Force gains national attention

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 10:09 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - A local program has flipped the script when it comes to Louisiana’s history of high cases of infant deaths.

Now, Southwest Louisiana has become a national leader in the prevention of those tragedies.

“Accidental suffocation or an improper sleep environment by being placed to sleep with blankets or stuffed animals or something that the infant can ultimately cause them to suffocate on,” Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office Chief Investigator Charlie Hunter said.

These items are not commonly considered to be dangerous, but to an infant, they could be life-threatening.

“There’s one thing in my career that will crush you and that is having to do life-saving measures on an infant,” Houston River Fire Department Chief Dean Lappe said. “Not only the fire departments, but our paramedics, our doctors - that’s the hardest thing in the world there is to do. And if we can prevent one child - one child - we’ve accomplished huge things.”

A trend the Southwest Louisiana Task Force noticed in 2009 and knew they needed to make a change.

“We got together to review our monthly cases and what we did is we seen an overwhelming amount of infant deaths,” Hunter said.

A trend Hunter said was mostly preventable.

“The large majority of those infant deaths were actually preventable - 100% preventable,” Hunter said.

Fast forward 12 years, the knowledge and awareness of the Safe Sleep Task Force are now being shared nationwide.

“Our success rate in the years that we’ve started the Safe Sleep Task Force, we’ve actually seen a 66% decrease in infant deaths which is a tremendous amount,” Hunter said. “You’re talking going from around 20 to 25 infant deaths a year to less than 5 a year. And to think of all of those little infants that their lives are saved is just a true testament to our community.”

Anyone interested in taking the course is encouraged to call the Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office at 337-477-7537

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