Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as Crib Death, is believed to have devastated families since human origin. It is only recently that the medical and political worlds have come together to understand SIDS. Now, it is well-known that babies under age one are at risk of dying in their sleep with no apparent cause. No one and nothing seems to be to blame for these deaths. The SIDS Information Center at Dallas helped bring this misunderstood disease to light.
In the 1970s, though, when SIDS was less understood, it was somewhat common to place blame on the parents of the deceased child with allegations of infanticide or neglect. During this time, SIDS was far more prevalent in Texas than in any other state. A grant summary authored by the North Texas Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Information and Counseling Project estimated that the national average for crib deaths in the U.S. was 3 for every 1,000 live births, but that in Texas that number was 18.4 deaths per 1,000 births. That’s one reason why the SIDS Information Center was opened at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences through the University of Texas Health Science Center at Dallas.
SIDS was especially traumatizing to families in Texas counties with small populations, because medical examiners were often unavailable to perform autopsies on these infants. Medical examiners were only required in counties of more than 500,000 people (and only 8 of the 252 Texas counties met this criteria). The SIDS Information Center provided education, training, and resources for paramedical personnel and law officers in these outlying counties, so that they may better serve the survivors of the SIDS victim and provide more thorough death investigations. Families requiring counseling also found a sanctuary at the SIDS Information Center. 39 North Texas counties were served by the SIDS Project.
In 1977, the 65th Legislature passed House Bill 1189 and a Senate Bill regarding SIDS,and the North Texas Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Information and Counseling Project began in 1978. In 1981, the Texas legislature partially covered the cost of autopsies for victims. By October 1982, the project was privately funded by Texas Foundations.
The Lanny Hall collection contains many more resources about the SIDS problem in North Texas, including letters to Lanny Hall from fellow representatives and constituents, as well as other grey literature about SIDS and the SIDS project. Hall served Tarrant County as a Representative in the Texas House during the sixty-sixth, sixty-seventh, and sixty-eighth legislatures (1979-1984). The collection also contains records pertaining to subjects such as public education, tuition rates and funding for colleges and universities, equal rights and LGBT issues, transportation, and health topics.