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Bereavement Support Services

Community-Based Bereavement Services


Information and Referrals

Funding for a community-based system of supportive services to bereaved families after a SIDS death included information and referral systems to inform families of services available to them. To develop and facilitate such referrals, a SIDS education and awareness effort for death investigators and first responders was initiated.

Generally, it is financially prohibitive for programs to operate a dedicated toll-free crisis or information hotline. Local or State programs may fund nonprofit hotlines to provide information and referrals to facilitate access to bereavement services. These hotlines often connect callers to a national hotline after hours or to local peer support contacts.

If you do not have your own toll-free number, you can publicize national ones such as First Candle’s (800-221-SIDS) or the American SIDS Institute’s (800-232-SIDS) which operate 24 hours a day. A cost-effective alternative is for State or local programs to ensure that updated service information is provided to all existing community services resource directories and hotlines.

It is important to make referrals to counseling and bereavement services in the area where the family lives. You may want to develop a bereavement resource directory identifying counselors, funeral home aftercare programs, hospital- or community-based bereavement programs, mental health professionals or clergy who are willing to assist grieving families in your service area, whether it be local, regional or Statewide.

In some States, the medical examiner/coroner either makes a referral to a SIDS program or provides information to the family from a local SIDS program. In such systems, only those families who consent to contact will be referred to a SIDS program. However, a few systems provide the local SIDS program with the names of all SIDS families while simultaneously informing the families that their names have been forwarded.

Many States and counties do not have an organized referral system in place. In these areas, local SIDS programs generally receive referrals to newly-bereaved SIDS families from the medical examiner/coroner, hospital personnel, police department, social workers, service agencies, funeral directors, clergy or families themselves.

If program staff are concerned about the type or number of referrals made to their program, staff should examine how current referrals are made and consider conducting a survey of local hospitals, funeral directors, emergency personnel or other key responders to see how and to whom they are presently referring grieving families.