TOPEKA – (October 1, 2021) – The State Child Death Review Board this week reported that Kansas recorded the lowest number of children’s deaths since the board began reviewing deaths in 1994.
The board’s just-released annual report analyzes the deaths of Kansas children (birth through 17 years old) that occurred in calendar year 2019, the most recent year for which data is available. The report showed Kansas had 362 child fatalities in 2019, compared with 414 in 2018. The overall child death rate in 2019 was 51.7 deaths per 100,000 population, resuming a downward trend from the past decade.
The report also shows that in 2019 the number of motor vehicle crash deaths for children age 1-17 fell below the number of deaths by suicide, which also declined. The number of suicides for 2019 represented 27% of deaths compared to 24% over the previous five years.
In 2019 there were 28 youth suicides in Kansas, a decrease from the 35 youth suicides occurring in 2018. The decrease in suicide deaths was the first time since 2014 that the number of youth suicides decreased from the previous reporting year. The Board found that 61% of those youths who died by suicide had concerns regarding their education, whether academically or behaviorally. In 43% of the cases, the youth had a history of substance use/abuse.
In June 2018, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the Tower Mental Health Foundation formed the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force to survey efforts underway in Kansas to reduce the incidence of youth suicide and provide recommendations on further steps that could be taken. In 2019, the Kansas Legislature created the Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator position in effort to implement the recommendations of the task force.
“It is encouraging to see that our youth suicide rate has decreased after years of an upward trend. Kansans still have more work to do to continue to break this cycle and address the factors that lead a young person to end their life,” Schmidt said. “I appreciate the dedicated work of the State Child Death Review Board in compiling this information to help inform policymakers and stakeholders in efforts to meet the challenges of this health and wellbeing crisis head on.”
In addition to policy recommendations, the report includes prevention points that families can use to decrease the likelihood of a child’s death.
The board is a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency volunteer board organized by law within the attorney general’s office to examine trends and patterns that identify risk factors in the deaths of children, from birth through 17 years of age.
“The data provided by this report is critical to our understanding of child deaths in Kansas. More importantly, we know behind each of these statistics are stories of children lost, families who grieve, and communities impacted forever,” said Sara Hortenstine, the board’s executive director. “We have a responsibility to learn from each of these difficult circumstances and take action to prevent future deaths of Kansas children.”
The report is available on the attorney general’s website at https://bit.ly/3AeVD9B. A copy of the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force report is also available at https://ag.ks.gov/ysptf.
If you or anyone you know are in need of crisis support, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator is located in the Victim Services Division of the Office of the Attorney General and can be reached at 1-800-828-9475.