Nassau will become the first county in the United States to use ambulances as Baby Safe Haven drop-off sites, County Executive Ed Mangano announced during a Wednesday morning press conference.
Baby Safe Haven allows mothers who feel they are unable to care for their children to legally and anonymously give them away to become wards of the state. Mangano said that the county is taking this step so that fewer mothers will abandon their children in dangerous places.
"[This is] a program that provides mothers real options. A program that avoids a very difficult decision, a wrong decision," Mangano said.
Each ambulance will bear a sign reflecting the logo, "Safe Baby - Safe Place - Safe Haven." The Nassau County Police Department has already installed them on all of its ambulances, as did the North Bellmore Fire Department, Winthrop-University Hospital, the Wantagh-Levittown Ambulance Corp. and Life Star Ambulance Corp.
According to the National Safe Haven Alliance, more than 1,000 babies have been saved in the United States in the last decade as a result of the Baby Safe Haven Program. Mangano, however, said that number is actually more than 2,600 (a lack of facts in some areas makes finding the exact number of babies saved difficult).
"This program provides an anonymous place, a safe place, a 'safe haven,' if you will, to drop the baby off to caring individuals that will make sure that baby is safe and properly cared for," Mangano said. "[Ambulance] attendants will be able to receive babies. Mothers will have a place to go, if they see an ambulance, they can drop off their baby.
"Most importantly, we believe that this outlet, this program, will increase the number of babies that can be saved," Mangano said.
According to New York State law, a mother who believes she cannot care for her baby can legally leave the newborn at a number of locations, like police precincts, firehouses, hospitals and churches or with any responsible adult willing to accept the baby and call proper authorities. Over the past 10 years, safe haven laws have been adopted in all 50 states.
Timothy Jaccard, president of the Ambulance Medical Technicians Children of Hope Foundation/Baby Safe Haven Program (AMT Children of Hope Foundation), started the Safe Haven Program in New York over a decade ago in response to the high number of abandoned babies.
"We felt that it's important that the mothers realize that when the mothers see the ambulances, the ambulances are the front line defense out there," Jaccard said. "They know the clientele, they know people that are in the communities, so [the mothers] trust them, and that's where it plays an important role."
Jaccard added, "We believe that that is going to expedite and aid birth mothers in making that decision and moving forward."
The AMT Children of Hope Foundation was founded in 1998 in response to the number of abandoned, deceased infants. The organization, comprised of local healthcare workers, civilians and members of the Nassau County Police Department, not only provides burials for these children but assists pregnant individuals in crisis, provides support to prepare parents-to-be to either raise their child or make an adoption plan and educates them on the Safe Haven law.
The awareness campaign aims to prevent the loss of innocent lives, Jaccard said, noting the infant discovered in the Yaphank Recycling Center in January. Named "Thomas John Hope," Jaccard said a burial is currently being arranged.
The AMT Children of Hope Foundation, which is funding the Nassau initiative, operates a 24/7 emergency hotline, 1-877-796-HOPE (4673); in 2009, the hotline received 2,115 calls.
Baby Safe Haven Spots in Bellmore
North Bellmore Fire Department - 1500 Newbridge Rd.
Bellmore Fire Department - 23o Pettit Ave.
Bellmore-Merrick EMS - 2434 Grand Ave.
Long Island Crisis Center - 2740 Martin Ave.