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Kathryn Mc Cans, the chairwoman of the child fatality board since 2015, said she, too, is concerned about infants dying needlessly.

Under her leadership in January, New Jersey became the first state to distribute of "Baby Boxes" -- a bassinett-sized laminated cardboard box with a mattress and fitted sheet for any parent who watches a safe-sleep educational video.

"As one of the wealthiest states in the nation by many standards, New Jersey's standing with regard to maternal and infant health is unacceptable," Vitale said.

"The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee will hold hearings on these issues early in the new legislative session to make sure we are doing everything we can to make sure that women and babies in this state get the care they deserve." The state's foremost authorities on infant mortality say most bed-sharing deaths -- averaging 1,000 a year in the nation and 31 in New Jersey -- are preventable.

Vitale, the sponsor of a long-ignored bill to overhaul the state Medical Examiner's Office, expressed confidence that with Gov.-elect Phil Murphy taking office in January and his vow to overhaul the agency, there would be "the resources and the will to do the right thing." But tackling the infant mortality issue requires more exploration, he said.