BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Kern County Public Health officials presented the 2022 Child Death Report to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, detailing the grim statistics of child deaths throughout the county during that year.

According to the report, the number of suicide and homicide deaths are declining, but the county saw an increase in the number of undetermined and accidental deaths. With the cause of 17 deaths being undetermined, three more deaths from the year prior and 23 deaths ruled as accidental, the leading cause of childhood deaths found in the report.

Car accidents and drownings were the leading causes of most accidental deaths. However, Public Health Program Specialist Chad Casto shares that the team found unsafe sleeping as a cause of many undetermined deaths.

“Co-sleeping, that is a big thing. We see a lot of infants co-sleeping with parents, in bed with parents, in bed with siblings, they’re not laid down properly in bed or with other items and so that really ties into undetermined deaths for infants,” said Casto.

Another big finding, many child deaths were from multi-drug intoxication, specifically from fentanyl.

According to Kern County Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan, between the years 2020 and 2021, the county saw seven deaths from fentanyl. However, according to the report, the county saw the same amount in just the single year of 2022.

“Fentanyl is absolutely a key takeaway from this report. Something that we never used to see our children die from, we’re now seeing them die from this. It’s absolutely an issue that our community needs to take seriously, it’s absolutely that all of us as agencies that are trying to support children in our community take as a mission for us to address this next year to try to prevent this from killing any more of our children,” said Carrigan.

While the statistics are grave, Carrigan said the report is critical for local health organizations and creates more public awareness.

“Data speaks volumes, data should drive how you develop what your mission is, what your goals are and that’s absolutely what this report does, the child death report is a hard look at very difficult data, tragic data, that should drive the decisions we’re making in future years,” said Carrigan.

To read the entire report, click here.