Baby box funding still available to New Mexico counties

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A heartbreaking case brought to light the New Mexico Safe Haven Act that allows a baby – up to 90 days old – to be surrendered at a hospital, fire or police station without any criminal charges.

But it also brought up another option – “baby boxes.”

“So it’s anonymous, the mother doesn’t have to bring the baby and hand it to a firefighter she can actually use this device and walk away, and not be seen,” said Española Assistant Fire Chief John Wickersham. 

Last year, the state approved a bill to expand the Safe Haven Program and provide funds to build one box for every county in New Mexico. But, one year later and the money is still sitting there. 

“We are going to have one-third of all the baby boxes in the United States right here in New Mexico,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had previously said.

Last year, $330,000 were set aside by the state to install one baby box in each of New Mexico’s 33 counties. Each box costs around $10,000 to install. 

But, so far, only Lea County used the funds to install one of these baby boxes in Hobbs. 

KOB 4 was there last year as Española unveiled the first baby box in the state, something the city had been working on for years.

“That brings Española to be the first to have a baby box in the state of New Mexico, we’re really excited, we’re really proud,” said Española Mayor Javier Sánchez. 

As of now, there are no campaigns to let counties know this money is available, but all they have to do is submit a quote to the Department of Finance to receive the funds. 

Even though no boxes are currently installed in Albuquerque, Denise Campbell, director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Lovelace Hospital, says under the Safe Haven Law, you can still drop off your newborn at any of their hospitals with a staff member present. 

“The individual will take the baby to the emergency room for stabilization, just to make sure the baby is OK. And then at that point, we obtain chain of custody, and then we need to notify CYFD immediately,” said Campbell. 

The law does require people to hand the newborn to someone either at the hospital, fire station or police station — without fear of criminal charges.

But with a “baby box” the infant is placed inside, and it locks from the outside. It’s climate controlled and a camera inside sends live video to firefighters cell phones.

Multiple alarms trigger alert firefighters inside the station.

“We are here to help we will take in the baby, and we will give you that support,” said Campbell.