Press release by Healthcare Foundation of La Porte:

On the morning of Thursday, October 12, 2023, Healthcare Foundation of La Porte (HFL) and the HFL Partners for Healthier Babies Council welcomed La Porte County partners working to reduce infant mortality for an October Safe Sleep Celebration and Commemoration. The event was designed to celebrate accomplishments in improving the infant mortality rate in La Porte County, including the one-year anniversary of the La Porte County Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) team, and connect local partners working to continue to improve services throughout the county.  

Hosted at the HFL Conference & Learning Center, the October Safe Sleep Celebration & Commemoration began with a welcome from HFL President and CEO Maria Fruth. Fruth shared HFL’s mission – empowering La Porte County residents to live healthy and well – and highlighted how HFL’s strategic priority of Healthy Children led to the creation of the Partners for Healthier Babies (PHB) Council in 2019. The PHB Council is made of up more than 30 local members who meet monthly to map services, identify service gaps, monitor and track indicators, review data to determine trends, and make recommendations to increase impact in the areas of maternal and infant health. Infant Mortality Rate is the top indicator for Healthy Children, and this event was designed to celebrate the great progress made in reducing the infant mortality rate for the county.  

HFL Partners for Healthier Babies Council 

Dr. Gary Wheeland, retired family physician and current HFL Board member, as well as the board liaison with PHB, congratulated the partners in attendance on their hard work and shared the data for 2021: For that year, zero infant deaths were attributed to unsafe sleep practices in La Porte County! Dr. Wheeland also stressed the many benefits of the PHB Council, including a greater understanding of resources available in our community now that those resources work more closely together in a complementary fashion.  

La Porte County Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) Team 

Dr. Wheeland then welcomed Peggy Rose, FNP, the La Porte County FIMR Coordinator, and Amanda Lahners, REHS/RS, La Porte County Health Department Administrator, to provide an update on the first year of the La Porte County FIMR team, which was created in 2022 thanks to full funding by HFL and the La Porte County Health Department stepping up to coordinate and facilitate efforts.  

Rose described the La Porte County FIMR team as a multidisciplinary team that meets monthly to review de-identified cases of fetal and infant deaths. The FIMR team aims to identify system gaps, not to assign blame. The FIMR team then provides findings and makes recommendations to the Community Action Team (CAT), which is HFL’s Partners for Healthier Babies Council. 

The FIMR Team is working to increase understanding of how and why fetal and infant deaths occur; identify the need to influence policies and programs; improve maternal and infant health, safety, and protection; prevent fetal and infant deaths; and continue to reduce the infant mortality rate in La Porte County.  

The FIMR Team reviews comprehensive, de-identified data that is gathered from a variety of sources, including hospitals, OBs, EMTs, CPS, the coroner, police, autopsies, and parental interviews when available, and then makes recommendations to the PHB Council. Some recent recommendations include ongoing re-engagement with providers regarding safe sleep; spreading awareness of infant product recalls from the Consumer Product Safety Commission; and emphasizing early prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy and preconception care and counseling for parents.  

Partners Share and Learn 

Following the PHB and FIMR presentations, seven local partners shared about their work and how they contribute to safe sleep and improved infant and maternal health. Attendees heard from Dunebrook’s Healthy Families of La Porte County, Franciscan Health Michigan City’s Pregnancy Assistance Program and Family Birthing Center, La Porte County Family Resource Center, Northwest Health – La Porte’s Maternal Care, Northwest Indiana Community Action Women, Infants & Children, and Women’s Care Center.  

Partners were encouraged to bring handouts, books, cards, and other resources to share with those in attendance at the event. HFL and the PHB Council made available copies of the updated Maternal Care Brochure for La Porte County, as well as sleep sacks for each partner in attendance to take back to their location and distribute to pregnant or new parents as needed.  

“October is a great opportunity to bring extra attention to infant safe sleep and our ongoing work to help all La Porte County babies reach their first birthdays,” stated Fruth. “The HFL PHB Council, the FIMR team, and all our partners contribute to reducing the infant mortality rate. Our work continues!”  

Healthcare Foundation of La Porte (HFL), a private, independent foundation located in La Porte, Indiana, is dedicated to empowering La Porte County residents to live healthy and well. Since 2017, HFL has invested more than $41 million in the La Porte County community. Through strategic and thought leadership, grantmaking, and capacity building, HFL aims to further the foundation’s vision for La Porte to be one of the 10 healthiest communities in Indiana by 2030. HFL also offers its state-of-the-art Conference & Learning Center free of charge for nonprofit organizations, government entities, and schools.   

To learn more about HFL and Partners for Healthier Babies, visit, call 219.326.2471, or email