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Maine DHHS Announces Initiatives to Protect Maine Babies and Youth, Furthering Goals of Children's Cabinet

September 23, 2019
Human Services

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today initiatives to prevent substance use among Maine's youth and raise awareness of safe sleep practices for babies.

The initiatives align with the two central goals of Governor Mills' Children's Cabinet, to better support children before they reach school age and at-risk youth.

"It's everyone's job to make sure babies are safe," said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, who chairs the Children's Cabinet. "We must also take every step we can to protect our young people from the devastating consequences of substance use disorders. A healthy life starts in childhood, and the Children's Cabinet is dedicated to ensuring that Maine children and families have the care, education, and support they need."

"Prevention is critical to the Governor's plan to combat the opioid crisis," said Gordon Smith, Maine's Director of Opioid Response. "An effective prevention strategy will save not only state dollars in the months and years ahead, but more importantly, the lives of people throughout Maine. Turning the tide on this crisis starts with our youth."

DHHS announced a plan to prevent and reduce substance use and its consequences among children. The plan includes improving efforts to help new parents protect their infants from the effects of substance use and expanding collaboration with school-based health centers and resiliency programs to address opioid use risks among older children and teens. Suicide prevention, restorative practice, and community outreach programs are also part of the initiative. The plan invests nearly $2 million over two years from the $5.5 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine set aside for opioid response in Governor Mills' budget.

DHHS additionally announced the statewide launch of the Safe Sleep for ME campaign, which provides information on safe sleeping practices for babies to new parents, pregnant women, and others who care for children younger than 1 year old. The effort began in April with the addition of safe sleep resources to the DHHS website, followed by the roll out in August of the dedicated SafeSleepforME.org website. The full launch incorporates an updated website, new web and social media ads that began last week, and television and radio ads that began airing this week. A mailing to MaineCare members is planned later in September.

The campaign promotes the A, B, Cs of Safe Sleep, which state that babies should be:

  • ALONE in a crib
  • On their BACK for nights and naps
  • Placed in a clean, clear CRIB
  • Cared for in a Drug-Free Home - by aware, not impaired, caregivers

The Department's safe sleep efforts also include working with hospitals to help them become safe sleep certified, and with Public Health Nurses, Maine Families Home Visiting staff, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) staff, and Office of Child and Family Services caseworkers and other social service agencies to ensure safe sleep education is provided to families with a new baby.

Governor Mills announced in her Inaugural Address that she would reconstitute the Children's Cabinet, which was created in 1996 by then-Governor Angus King. The Children's Cabinet is comprised of the Commissioners of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, Public Safety, and Corrections. Maine's Chief Justice, Leigh Saufley, plans to participate regularly by invitation.

The Children's Cabinet meets approximately every six weeks.