AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine's health and human services agency says it's launching a safe sleeping educational campaign and offering extra home visits in light of the deaths of 26 children since 2017.

Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew announced Monday the agency seeks to prevent tragedies through immediate steps such as seeking federal funding to help mothers amid the opioid epidemic.

The Bangor Daily News reported last week over 20 children have died since 2017 following safety concerns reported to the state.

At least eight children died with open abuse or neglect cases. Four deaths were classified as homicides, while 13 were ruled accidents, including co-sleeping incidents.

Lambrew's agency says 45 percent of child deaths from 2014 to 2019 were related to unsafe sleep environments. One-third of Maine child abuse victims have parents facing drug abuse.

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