Spotlight – Utah

Teresa Brechlin
Utah Department of Health
Violence and Injury Prevention Program
P.O. Box 142106
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2106
Phone: 801-538-6888
Fax: 801-538-9134
Email: tbrechlin@utah.gov

Website: http://www.health.utah.gov/vipp/childFatality/overview.html

Program Description

Administration
Child Fatality Review Committee:
Each year about 450 children ages 0-18 die in Utah. In response to these deaths, an interagency Child Fatality Review Committee (CFRC) was established by the Utah Department of Health in 1992. The CFRC was charged with the review of the circumstances and cause of all childhood deaths in the state. The purpose of the CFRC is to develop a better understanding of child deaths in order to reduce the number of intentional and unintentional deaths of Utah children.

The goals of the CFRC are to:

  • Identify and describe the prevalence of risk factors among deceased children by studying and reporting trends and patterns of child deaths in Utah.
  • Maximize resources through interagency collaboration to identify and describe the service delivery of the involved systems (medical, human services, and law enforcement) to high-risk children, and make policy recommendations to improve the service systems to better meet the needs of all families involved with these systems.
  • Promote effective prevention strategies to reduce the number of child deaths.
  • Refer issues and propose strategies to appropriate organizations and agencies to promote education and prevention.

The CFRC meets once a month to review deaths of all Utah children (ages 0-18) who died within the three months prior, as well as any recent suspicious cases, and which were identified by the Office of the Medical Examiner (OME). These include homicides, suicides, suspicious or undetermined deaths, as well as any sudden and unexpected deaths. This death review process provides a detailed understanding of how and why child deaths occur in Utah. The goals of the reviews are to:

  • Identify the important issues and concerns surrounding the deaths.
  • Assess the accuracy and completeness of data from death investigations.
  • Assess the accuracy and completeness of medical data surrounding the deaths.
  • Improve communication through interagency collaboration of the various health, human services, and law enforcement agencies to ensure that complete and thorough investigations are performed on child deaths.
  • Refer prevention and policy recommendations to the Child Fatality Advisory Committee.

The formation of the CFRC brings together diverse agencies and organizations that serve Utah children and families. This multidisciplinary approach enables members to share available information from different sources to better understand how and why a child has died. It is this coordination that improves the process of thoroughly reviewing child deaths in Utah.

Teams

State Team:(Chairperson – Teresa Brechlin)
This team has 25 members. The team meets monthly. The Advisory Committee meets yearly.

Reviews
The Utah State Team conducts a full review on all suspicious, unexplained or unexpected deaths. Additionally, all injury deaths receive a committee review and all death certificates receive a medical review. The team reviews deaths to children age 18 and under.

Purpose
The purpose of the Utah Child Fatality Committee is to investigate child deaths and provide quality assurance and services in order to improve response and prevent future child deaths.

Data
Beginning in 2014, death data is being submitted to the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths (NCRPCD). The Department of Health has access to the Office of the Medical Examiner database and the state vital records. These are used on each case to identify data as well obtain information for collection. The Department of Health analyzes the data with SAS.

Annual Report
The Utah Child Fatality Committee produces a report, periodically, depending on a rich enough data collection to allow for publication. This is distributed to the Child Fatality Committee, local health departments, health department officials, the media, hospitals, libraries and is available on the VIPP website. Fact Sheets are published periodically to inform the public on specific topics in the interim.

Prevention Initiatives
Findings from the review process have influenced policy changes in Utah. These include seat belt/car seat/booster seat legislation, the initiation of a youth suicide study, dating violence protections, among others. Additionally, child fatality review findings have motivated prevention efforts.

Protocols
Utah has several protocols in place including protocols for the CFR meeting, confidentiality, child/infant death scene investigation and a death certificate review process.

Training
Training is not offered at this time.

Last Updated: January 2016