Covington County Opens Safe Haven Baby Box

Gregg Gibbes

Collins, MS, May 7, 2024 – Covington County Hospital (CCH) held a dedication and blessing ceremony on Tuesday outside the Emergency Room entrance to commemorate the opening of a Safe Haven Baby Box that will provide a safe and anonymous option for a parent in crisis who cannot care for their newborn.

The CCH location is the third box installed in the state with the others at Simpson General Hospital which opened in January, and a fire station in Long Beach, Mississippi.

“It’s heartbreaking to see newborn babies left on the curb outside of our hospital. Now, they can be safely placed in the Safe Haven Baby Box. Our priority is to provide a safe and secure environment for these precious little ones,” stated Gregg Gibbes, CCH CEO.”

Community members gathered for the ceremony including many members of the Covington County Republican Women (CCRW), who led the effort to raise the $20,000 necessary for the installation and maintenance of the baby box.

“We wanted to give an alternative to women, who are in crisis, and who are just not ready for motherhood,” said Dianne Pickering, CCRW Vice President and 3rd Congressional District Director.

The baby box installation is a result of Mississippi’s Safe Haven Law, written by Lesley Davis and members of the Mississippi Advocacy Group which was passed last year under Mississippi House Bill 1318 and supported by Madison Representative Jill Ford and Representative Noah Sanford. The Safe Haven Law allows anyone to deposit an infant up to 45 days old into the box.

“This is for a woman who doesn’t want to do a face-to-face surrender and wants to remain completely anonymous,” said Caitlin Kelly, Mississippi Safe Haven Baby Box Representative. Kelly and Melissa Sullivan, Respiratory Therapist with Simpson General Hospital, met with CCH staff before the ceremony to review the protocol and instructions for maintaining and utilizing the box.

According to Kelly, the box is climate-controlled at 74 degrees year-round, no matter the outside temperature. It is equipped with two alarms: one being a silent alarm when the box is first opened, and a second alarm when the baby is laid in the medical-grade bassinet notifying ER medical personnel. On average, a baby is removed from the box within two minutes. The exterior door automatically locks upon placement of a newborn inside, allowing the staff to reach the surrendered newborn from an interior door.

Once an infant is surrendered, Kelly says the baby is turned over to Child Protective Services (CPS) and vetted by state and federal officials to arrange for foster care or adoption.

Lynn Scott, RN, CCH Chief Compliance and Patient Care Officer, expressed, “We are thrilled to offer this safe option to mothers in crisis. Our number one goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of the infant.”

“I’m so proud of the staff that works at our hospital and how they care for the patients,” said Gibbes who gave special thanks to Lynn Scott and Stephen Boleware for arranging the installation of the baby box.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes is an organization that is dedicated to preventing the illegal abandonment of newborns by raising awareness and offering a 24-hour hotline for mothers in crisis. The organization’s main objective is to spread awareness of the Safe Haven Law. Women in crisis may call the national 24-hour hotline at 1-866-99BABY1 and receive counseling and assistance free of charge. The hotline has received over 9,000 calls from every state in the United States. Safe Haven Baby Boxes has referred over 500 women to crisis pregnancy centers, assisted in 9 adoption referrals, and has had over 140 legal Safe Haven surrenders nationwide. With their Baby Boxes, 43 babies have been surrendered, and three babies were surrendered directly to firefighters at Safe Haven Baby Box locations.

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