On Oct. 26, Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center, in collaboration with Safe Haven Baby Boxes, unveiled Ohio’s eighth Safe Haven Baby Box. The Safe Haven Baby Box is a secure place for an infant to be surrendered and is embedded within the southwest corner of the St. Rita’s emergency department facing Market Street. It features climate control technology as well as a silent alarm that notifies first responders of a surrender, allowing hospital personnel to respond within five minutes to perform a medical evaluation. 

According to the National Safe Haven Alliance, 4,630 infants nationwide have been surrendered since 2004. Safe Haven laws allow a parent to anonymously surrender their unharmed infant to a designated Safe Haven provider within a specific time after birth. Infants are often surrendered within 60 days of being born, often premature, and are typically adopted within 30 to 45 days. The Safe Haven Baby Box available on the St. Rita’s campus will be immediately available as a safe place for infants to be surrendered and placed for adoption shortly after. 

“The Safe Haven Baby Box is a service we hope our patients and community won’t ever need to use, but it’s an important addition to the compassionate care we offer at St. Rita’s Medical Center,” said Ronda Lehman, president of Mercy Health – Lima. “With the addition of this Baby Box, we are furthering our mission and continuing to be a resource for the underserved by helping to ensure the health and well-being of the newest and most vulnerable residents of Lima and our surrounding communities.”

The research conducted by Sarah Bassitt, DNP, RN, assisted in the collaboration and the installation of this Baby Box. This research indicated that there were trends among populations who were most at risk for abandoning their infants, and identified a community need in Lima for this service. Two of those trends included those with lower levels of income and a low educational status. With more than 24 percent of the population living under the poverty line in Lima, Ohio, and many abandoned infants either being premature or having medical abnormalities, it was determined that not only was there a patient need but a need to install the Baby Box on the hospital campus. This way, these infants can obtain proper and expedited care by a team of trained medical experts.

This Safe Haven Baby Box is the eighth box in the state of Ohio and marks the 125th location in the United States. The nearest baby box is located more than an hour away. According to the organization, 21 infants have been surrendered via a Baby Box since 2017. Nationwide, 123 surrenders have resulted from calling the National Safe Haven Baby Box hotline. Just this year, seven surrenders have occurred. Safe Haven Baby Boxes are currently available in Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky and New Mexico.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes was founded by Monica Kelsey, who was abandoned as an infant. Her life’s mission is to end infant abandonment with the aid of awareness and education on Safe Haven laws and providing anonymous safe surrender locations through Safe Haven Baby Boxes is key to this mission.

“Each Baby Box we bless is another community prepared to serve vulnerable women and their infants. We are reducing the chances that a mother in crisis will make a life-altering decision that could lead to the death of an infant,” Kelsey said. “Instead, we are seeing mothers bravely and lovingly surrendering their infants when they feel they have no other choice, and these children are loved by adoptive families quickly. That is an incredible change in the narrative of these tough situations. It is a joy to be in Lima and add them to communities prepared to serve the vulnerable!”