Politics & Government

Child-death data could be shared under bill advanced by Senate committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday approved Senate Bill 259, which would allow the State Child Death Review Board to share information with researchers studying patterns and causes.

The studies would help researchers identify ways to prevent the death of children and infants in the future, said Christie Appelhanz, Kansas Action For Children’s vice president for public affairs.

“We’re collecting information now, but we’re not taking it the next step further to prevent the lives that are being lost,” Appelhanz said.

There were 391 children who died in Kansas in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, according to Kansas Action For Children.

The infant mortality rate in Kansas was 6.07 per 1,000 births in 2012, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Nancy Strouse, executive director of the Kansas Judicial Council, said the state board, which studies patterns in child deaths and develops prevention strategies, is barred from sharing information with outside researchers.

Passing this bill would make it possible for the University of Kansas, Wichita State University and other institutions to conduct their own studies. That would help make the board more effective, Strouse said.

“Research can lead to preventions and other strategies that save kids’ lives,” Strouse said.

A similar bill came before the committee last year but did not move forward. The bill has been amended so that those who request information from the board and their reasons will be publicly documented.

That helped ease the concerns of some legislators, such as Sen. Greg Smith of Overland Park.

“That was the piece that I think was missing. And that made it a better bill in my mind,” Smith said.