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Commission votes to expand Injury Prevention Program

Tuesday, May 8, 2018 by Sommer Brugal

In an effort to support the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service’s efforts to reduce preventable injuries, the Public Safety Commission passed a motion to fund and expand the county’s Injury Prevention Program at its May 7 meeting.

Lisa Sepulveda, Austin-Travis County EMS Community Service program manager, said the program provides education, training and resources to the citizens of Austin and Travis County. The three main programs include the Child Passenger Safety, Safe Baby Academy, and Senior Safety and Fall Prevention programs.

“Our efforts focus on reducing preventable injuries that result from predictable events,” said Sepulveda. “We created targeted injury prevention programming that addresses the most common injuries that EMS responds to on a daily basis and developed a network of partnerships and volunteers to help execute programming and create sustainable change.”

Sepulveda continued to say the program also provides public safety agencies in surrounding communities with parallel programming and grant-funded resource support.

According to Randy Chhabra, ATCEMS captain, the primary cause of preventable deaths in the community for infants between 1 and 12 months is unsafe sleep practices, which is why Safe Baby Academy programming includes a wide range of possible concerns families might have regarding proper sleep practices. Classes also explore topics such as poisonings, choking, TV tip-overs and the safe use of common toys.

Since the Safe Baby Academy launched, it has reached over 2,000 people and gifted more than 1,100 car seats to families who identify as needing resources. Chhabra said families that identify as having unsafe sleep behaviors are gifted Pack ‘n Plays and baby boxes, too.

All child safety programs, including Child Passenger Safety and Safe Baby Academy, are funded through the Texas Department of Transportation, said Chhabra. But when looking at the cost of these programs, he said the upfront costs are ultimately returned to the community. He referenced a cost-outcome analysis cited by the Children’s Safety Network, which works with states to create a science-based, public health approach for injury and violence prevention.

“For every car seat that you distribute, there’s a $2,200 savings back to your community,” said Chhabra. “So if we apply that across all of our programming, we’ve saved our community over $20 million since we started our program back in 2008.”

Prior to having a discussion with commissioners, Chair Rebecca Webber moved to recommend that City Council continue to fund – and expand – the program, viewing it as a valuable way to spend money, prevent injuries and save money.

Webber’s motion was seconded, but various commissioners raised questions regarding the program. Commissioner Ed Scruggs asked whether the program’s Safe Baby Academy classes ever discussed safe storage for firearms. Scruggs said many families aren’t getting that sort of information elsewhere and that providing something as small as a pamphlet could be beneficial.

Commissioner Daniela Nuñez questioned whether the program was reaching Spanish-speaking populations and asked if the program was planning to expand those efforts to ensure it was reaching those families in particular. Nuñez said many families in District 4, for example, could benefit from the gifts mentioned by Chhabra, such as the free car seat, and the various safety classes.

Though Chhabra didn’t have the exact percentage of Spanish-speaking families the programs had served, he did mention that the Safe Baby Academy program is offered in Spanish, which is made possible via its partnerships with CommUnityCare Clinic and the Gabriele Life Center through the Catholic Diocese.

The final motion, which included a recommendation that Council expand the program and bring it to more families, passed unanimously, with Commissioner Sam Holt absent.

Photo by Steve and Sara Emry made available by a Creative Commons license.

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