The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force delivered several recommendations to the legislature and Gov. Roy Cooper this week.

It's suggesting changes to help reduce the number of child and teenager deaths. These include adding conditions to the state's newborn screening program and closing the gap in state law addressing rear seat belt usage.

Kella Hatcher is executive director of the Task Force. She says they're also pushing for more resources to address mental health issues for students.

“The Task Force is recommending required suicide prevention training and a risk referral protocol in schools, as well as funding for more school nurses who spend much of their time addressing mental health needs of kids, and yet we are almost 600 nurses short of meeting nationally recommended ratios in North Carolina,” she says.

Funding for a statewide firearm safety initiative is also on the list.

“We are also addressing the potentially tragic consequences of kids having access to lethal means and particularly, firearms, by recommending funding for a couple of programs,” says Hatcher. “One of which would launch a new state-wide firearm safety initiative that focuses on educating people about the importance of storing guns safely.”

The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force is a legislative study commission that was formed by state statute in the early 90s. It's made up of nearly three-dozen members that include lawmakers, state agency and community leaders.

According to the group's annual report, deaths to babies under one year of age make up two-thirds of all child deaths.

Researchers say motor vehicle accidents account for the majority of unintentional deaths among children.

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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