The announcement comes shortly after a report released by the Ohio Department of Health which showed
that infant mortality rose in 2015 despite millions of dollars aimed at curbing it. Cuyahoga County was among the worst performing counties in the state.
Kerrigan has her work cut out for her. But she's equipped for the challenge, most recently having worked in a leadership role at the Centers for Families and Children. She's a veteran in the field, with 26 years under her belt, and served as a social worker at University Hospitals before she moved toward the Executive suites at United Way of Greater Cleveland.
Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley, who's been a vocal supporter of the First Year Cleveland initiative, said Kerrigan will bring "vital dynamism" to the role.
“Under her leadership, we can be confident that this initiative will become an effective community effort,” he said, in a statement released by the city.
The program is, and has always been, a joint effort, with funding from both Cuyahoga County ($1.5 million) and the City of Cleveland ($500,000). Additionally, the Ohio Department of Medicaid awarded First Year Cleveland $3 million earlier this year for various programs for first-time parents. Hospitals and health care foundations have also contributed funds for Infant Mortality-related campaigns.
The city says that one of Kerrigan’s initial tasks will be pulling together all these existing programs and "look[ing] for partners and funders" to expand the successful ones.
Kerrigan and the First Year Cleveland Team will be housed at Case Western Reserve University (where Kerrigan also received her Masters in Social Science Administration).
“I am honored to have been selected for this position,” Kerrigan said, in a provided statement. “There is no quick fix to the complex challenge of reducing infant mortality. It will take persistence, collaboration, dedication and creativity. I am committed to doing all I can to execute solutions necessary to ensure that our babies reach their first birthdays and beyond.”
The city of Cleveland has announced that Bernadette Kerrigan, a veteran nonprofit professional, has been named the executive director of First Year Cleveland, an initiative aimed at combating the scourge of infant mortality in the region.