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Mentor for young moms receives Servant’s Heart Award

3/3/2017, 6 a.m.
DeKalb Board of Health employee Kassie Bennett has received the Servant’s Heart Award from Georgia first lady Sandra Deal for ...
Georgia first lady Sandra Deal presents DeKalb Board of Health’s Kassie Bennett with the Servant’s Heart Award for her work as an advocate for young moms.

DeKalb Board of Health employee Kassie Bennett has received the Servant’s Heart Award from Georgia first lady Sandra Deal for her work as an advocate and mentor for young mothers and moms-to-be.

Bennett is a supervisor in DeKalb’s free M.O.R.E. program – Mothers Offering Resources and Education, which was created in 2005 in response to a very high number of infant deaths in DeKalb County. The death of a baby immediately after birth or before his or her first birthday is an infant death.

In the Board of Health’s 2005 Status of Health in DeKalb Report, McNair/Cedar Grove and Lithonia had the highest infant mortality rate of 13.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in its 13 Community Health Assessment Areas.

The communities with rates higher than the county average were concentrated in the southeastern part of DeKalb: Avondale/Towers/Columbia, Clarkston, Lithonia, McNair/Cedar Grove, Stone Mountain/Stephenson, and Southwest DeKalb/MLK Jr. Dunwoody had the lowest rate at 2.6.

The goal of the M.O.R.E. program is to reduce the number of infant deaths in DeKalb. It matches young mothers with trained resource moms who help before, during and after pregnancy until the baby’s first birthday.

Bennett is one of the program’s original resource moms, women who were once teen moms and know firsthand about the challenges and opportunities they encounter.

“You have to first gain her trust,” Bennett told the Georgia Department of Public Health on Feb. 24. “You have to be a good listener so you can get to the heart of her story. She may come to M.O.R.E. requesting food for her baby, but she may also need housing and clothing. She may show up with the baby’s father, but you may learn that she is involved in sex trafficking and needs additional services.”

Bennett was chosen to receive the award because of her commitment and giving above and beyond the call of duty to serve others.

“This award is very important to me because it recognizes the importance of the program, the mothers and babies who have needed our services, and all of our collective hard work,” Bennett said.

Volunteerism, community involvement and outreach are the foundation of “With a Servant’s Heart,” Deal’s platform as first lady.

Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford, DeKalb health director, said the Board of Health is proud of Bennett and the work of the M.O.R.E. moms.

“We are grateful to Mrs. Deal for acknowledging Ms. Kassie’s tireless efforts in supporting maternal and child health in DeKalb County,” Ford said.

The program has helped more than 5,000 mothers and babies since its inception. More than 50 percent of the referrals are through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC.

In the latest Status of Health in DeKalb Report, there were 394 infant deaths in DeKalb from 2008 through 2012. Black residents have higher rates of infant mortality compared with the white and Hispanic/Latino populations. DeKalb’s average infant death rate was 1.6 deaths per 1,000 live births compared with Georgia’s average of 1.2.

The rate has dropped by 30 percent.

In the 2015 report, black residents had the second-highest rate of teen pregnancies at an average rate of 36.7 births, behind Hispanic/Latino females’ rate at an average of 56.5 births.

The overall pregnancy rate among 10 through 19 years of age has decreased by 30.8 percent.

For more information about M.O.R.E., call 770-484-2607 or visit dekalbhealth.net/hs/m-o-r-e. For more information about Servant’s Heart, visit dph.ga.gov and georgia.gov.