HELENA – Hospitals around the state are donating more than $80,000 to Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies so the organization can continue an education program aimed at preventing shaken baby injuries and deaths after a state board decided not to renew its funding.
Clementine Lindley, the vice chair of the Montana Children's Trust Fund board, said board members voted unanimously in June not to renew the contract with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies to implement the Period of PURPLE Crying education program. The goal of the program is to educate parents and caregivers about an infant's crying, ways to avoid frustration and the dangers of shaking a baby.
Lindley said the board has decided to see if the work can be improved under another program before awarding the funding.
"PURPLE is one of the best evidence-based programs in America," said Judy Edwards, executive director of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, The Montana Coalition. She noted the Department of Public Health and Human Services was part of the decision to use the program.
There were several issues with the grant application, Lindley said, including failing to achieve promised outcomes and not proposing a sustainability plan.
Jen Shaw, program manager for Healthy Mothers, Heathy Babies, said Thursday the program went from reaching more than 60 percent of the hospital births in Montana to more than 90 percent after adding three major hospitals to its network. The organization did propose a sustainability plan, which included continued funding from the Montana Children's Trust Fund along with fundraising and pursuing other grants, Shaw said.
"We want to have a positive relationship with the Children's Trust Fund" and continue working to help children, Shaw said. "We've been trying to keep that the focus."
State law requires there to be an education program to prevent shaken baby syndrome. The trust fund is required to support child abuse and neglect prevention programs.
DPHHS will meet the law's education requirements while a new program is being considered, agency spokesman Jon Ebelt said.
Meanwhile, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies will continue its work with the help of $10,000 donations from hospitals in Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman and Kalispell along with both hospitals in Billings and both in Missoula. The donation from St. Peter's Hospital was made to the organization Thursday morning in Helena.
Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, The Montana Coalition works with 23 hospitals to provide PURPLE education, Shaw said. The program uses the letters of the word PURPLE to inform families that the "peak" of a baby's crying is around the second month, it can be "unexpected," it "resists" soothing, a baby can look like they're in "pain," the crying can be "long-lasting" and that babies may cry more in the afternoon and "evening."
Edwards said she first contacted St. Peter's Hospital President and CEO Nate Olson about Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies' loss of funding. He said he emailed other hospitals and they soon had pledged $80,000 to help fund the program.
"The children of our community are too important to sit back and allow these preventable tragedies to continue to happen," Olson said in a statement.
Edwards said she's not aware of any hospitals that have been contacted by the state about a change in providers for the shaken baby education program.