Troy Fire officials defend ‘baby box’ design after complaint filed with state

Box is for parents to surrender infant they can’t care for; Ohio Department of Health is checking complaint.

The Newborn Safety Incubator, also known as a “baby box,” at the Troy Fire Department’s new station meets all statutory and regulatory requirements, Chief Matthew Simmons contends in a response to an Ohio Department of Health investigation into the recently installed box.

Baby boxes allow parents to surrender a newborn safely and anonymously until the child is 30 days old if they cannot provide care. There are nine baby boxes available in Ohio, according to ODH.

Troy’s baby box was included in construction plans for the new fire station on East Canal Street that recently was opened. In August, Simmons said the department planned to work to provide information in the community on the availability of the box.

The Ohio Department of Health notified the fire department earlier this month that an investigation was underway after a complaint that the baby box did not meet a requirement of placement on an exterior wall with access from outside the building.

In a response to ODH, Simmons included a letter to him from Miami County’s chief building official stating that the baby box is installed on an exterior wall and provides unencumbered access from the building exterior.

“In my opinion, the vestibule area is not a structural part of the building, it is an energy efficient area designed to help retain heat in the main building,” wrote Rob England in a letter dated Sept. 13.

Chris Hicks of Clermont County filed the complaint with Ohio Department of Health.

The point of the box on the exterior wall, he said, is a woman should never have to enter a building to surrender a baby. Hicks questioned in his complaint if the Troy baby box location provided the anonymity called for in the law. “I would bet this building area is also under video surveillance in the hall or from the outside door,” he wrote to ODH.

Hicks spoke before Troy City Council at Monday’s meeting about his interest in Safe Haven legislation for babies and the baby box option, saying more information on options for mothers is needed earlier so they receive proper care. The company that makes baby boxes, he alleged, has “monetized” baby boxes as their only manufacturer.

Instead of baby boxes at fire and police departments, Hicks said, signs need to be placed notifying people a baby can be surrendered at hospitals. He said signs at fire departments and police stations should help women know their options if pregnant and how to get proper and safe medical care.

“I am not against baby boxes. I think they should be at hospitals, to start, and awareness, to start,” Hicks said.

Other speakers at city council’s meeting voiced support for the baby box.

Council was advised not to get into any dialogue on the issue because of the pending investigation, said Bill Lutz, council president. There was no discussion by council.

In the written response to ODH, Simmons answered other questions posed as follows:

- “Our newborn safety incubator ensures the anonymity of the surrendering parent.”

- While security cameras are in the area, he attested that “the cameras do not monitor the vestibule or approach to the newborn safety incubator, which would violate the anonymity of a surrendering parent.”

In addition, several photos were included to show the installation location of the box and the vestibule area.

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