An effort to combat infant mortality in LaPorte County that began last year will now expand thanks to a new Safety PIN (Protecting Indiana’s Newborns) grant from the Indiana Department of Health.

Franciscan Health Community Health Improvement Manager Danielle Crowder said the new grant will complement the existing Prenatal Assistance Program, which launched in 2021 at Franciscan Health Michigan City’s Homer Street campus. The program benefited from a separate Safety PIN grant to a Northern Indiana collaborative led by Franciscan Health partner Beacon Health.

The grant of $500,000 over two years, which was awarded to the Franciscan Health Foundation, will bring Project Swaddle, which sends community paramedics to the homes of expectant and new mothers for regular check-ins and education, to Franciscan Health Michigan City’s Prenatal Assistance Program.

Project Swaddle provides Paramedic visits to a mother’s home, with virtual visits available as a complement. Paramedics will also check in via phone, and participants can call anytime with questions. Franciscan says that using paramedics for these visits is a cost-effective alternative to nurses at a time when there is a significant national nursing shortage. It also complements Nurse-Family Partnerships’ nurse home visits around LaPorte County, which address a wider array of topics for a more limited population.

Franciscan says the personalized relationships created by Project Swaddle have been shown to help participants stay engaged in monitoring their and their baby’s health since the program began in Crawfordsville, Ind., in 2018. Participants are more likely to follow through on medical appointments, keep a safe environment at home and be confident as a parent.

Crowder said the Safety PIN grant comes with an additional $50,000 award from the Indiana Rural Health Association (IRHA). United Healthcare Foundation provided funds to IRHA with the opportunity to project manage community paramedicine efforts across the state and assist organizations that are adopting Project Swaddle.

The Safety PIN grants underline the need for further resources to address medical causes of infant mortality in LaPorte County, according to Francisan. The county’s infant mortality rate rose to 9.4 per 1,000 live births in 2019, the third highest in the state and highest in the region. LaPorte County has the eighth-lowest rate of prenatal care in the state – only 57.5 percent vs. 68.9 percent for the state – and lowest in the Region.