Each year in the United States, an estimated 1 in 7 new moms suffer from postpartum depression. For many reasons—including social stigma, lack of access to care, and inadequate funding—only 15 percent of those suffering from postpartum depression ever receive professional treatment.
New legislation just passed by the U.S. House and Senate aims to change that.
The 21st Century Cures Act, which President Obama is expected to sign into law, increases funding for and makes regulatory improvements related to biomedical research, mental health treatment and new drugs and medical devices. Included in this bill is Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s "Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act."
“No mom should feel alone while suffering from the pain, isolation, and frustration that comes with postpartum depression,” writes Clark in a press release on her website. “The health and success of families include—and begin with—the whole health of our moms.”
Specifically, the bill authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to direct grant money to States seeking to improve and expand postpartum depression screening and treatment programs. Thus, it does not simply pay lip service to postpartum depression awareness. It looks for real results, too.
For instance, states applying for funding must demonstrate how they plan to increase access to postpartum depression screening and treatment programs. In particular, they must explain how their programs will increase the percentage of women screened and, if appropriate, treated for postpartum depression. With an eye toward inclusivity, the bill also includes a call for “culturally and linguistically appropriate services.”
[T]his bill won’t only help new moms to feel less isolated, it won't only help those suffering from postpartum depression to access the screening and treatment they need.
In addition, the bill authorizes the secretary to give priority to states whose programs connect health care providers to community resources supporting maternal mental health, that increase access to real-time psychiatric services for new moms, and that provide “telehealth service for rural areas and medically underserved areas.”
In other words, it gives priority to states that aim to break down both social stigma and access barriers related to postpartum depression in meaningful, practical ways.
With $5 million authorized and appropriated for these programs for each fiscal year from 2018 to 2022, this bill won’t only help new moms to feel less isolated, it won't only help those suffering from postpartum depression to access the screening and treatment they need. Yes, it will do both of those things.
Most importantly, it will also save lives.