LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Starting July 1, Okolona Fire Station One will become the first place in the state to have a newborn safety device. A Safe Haven Baby Box will be located outside the main entrance to the fire station, near where the firetrucks are parked.
House Bill 155 allows newborn safety devices to be installed at participating police stations, fire stations and hospitals. The law allows parents to safely surrender a newborn anonymously and without fear of punishment.
“That’s kind of the beauty of what this box is, is they have immunity for that,” Okolona Fire Deputy Chief Kenny Amback said. “They’re not going to get in trouble.”
When a child is placed inside a Safe Haven Baby Box, Amback said the box will automatically lock, keeping the child safe inside a temperature-controlled crib. An alarm is then triggered, alerting the fire department and placing a call to 911 so responders know a child is in need of their help.
The device is in its testing phase now and will be operational on the first of the month.
“To be the first ones to be able to have that is kind of exciting for us,” Amback said. “We’re very excited to be able to provide that to our citizens.”
The Kentucky Safe Infants Act allows parents to leave newborn infants that are less than 30 days old at a staffed fire station, police department or hospital, but the boxes allowed under the new law won’t require them to surrender a child face-to-face with someone else.
“We always say the Safe Haven Baby Box is a last resort option for a mom,” said Monica Kelsey, founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. “Of course, we want her to choose a parenting plan or adoption plan or walk into a hospital and surrender her child to a person. But we know that’s not always going to happen. You have to have this last alternative available for these moms if they want to chose it. Having these available for these moms ensures that we will not find a baby in a dumpster.”
While hospitals and police stations are also eligible to host a newborn safety device, Amback said a fire station may put a new mom more at ease.
“The community as a whole kind of looks at the fire department as kind of the good guys on that,” Amback said. “To be able to have that outlet where someone is able to come to the fire house where maybe they’ll a little more at ease — versus being at a hospital — maybe we can take away that fear of getting in trouble for trying to do the right thing. That’s our hope, that they’ll explore us as an option for that.”
Kentuckiana has already seen the success of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. In May, a healthy baby girl was left at a location in Clarksville.
Kelsey said her organization has received calls from people in Kentucky looking for the nearest location in southern Indiana to surrender a child, but she said it’s unclear if the mother who surrendered the girl in Clarksville was from Kentucky.
Statewide, more than 50 baby boxes are now across Indiana, including locations in Seymour and Corydon.
Amback said Okolona is looking at placing boxes at station two and station three to provide even more options for the community.
“We’re in the business of saving lives,” Amback said. “We really just look at the Safe Haven Baby Box as another tool in the toolbox to help us save more lives.”
In Fern Creek, Fern Creek Church raised over $54,000 to help place baby boxes around the Louisville area. Each box costs roughly $10,000.
For new moms or dads in need of resources, the Safe Haven Baby Boxes organization runs a 24-hour tip line (1-866-99BABY1) where parents can speak with trained professionals about their options.
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