I am twice blessed. Not only do I get to be on the board of directors of Postpartum Progress, Inc. and have the honor to work with Katherine, our other directors, and an army of Warrior Mom volunteers to help educate and encourage moms suffering from postpartum depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders to get the help they need, but I get to live in one of the few places in the world where a government has taken active steps to recognize the seriousness and treatability of these diseases: Massachusetts.
A great new program in Massachusetts started last year to promote the mental health of new mothers by building the capacity of providers serving pregnant and postpartum women to effectively prevent, identify, and manage depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after birth. This program for mothers was actually the child of an earlier and very successful program called MCPAP, which was founded in 2005 to develop a similar capacity for primary care physicians to effectively diagnose and treat children with mental health concerns. MCPAP gives primary care doctors ready access to a team of regional experts (each with a child psychiatrist, a social worker, and a care coordinator) who are on call for telephone consultations.
Recognizing that there is a direct correlation between a mother’s mental health and the mental and physical health of her children, Massachusetts legislators had the wisdom to try to similarly treat mothers. In just a small state like this where there were 72,000 births last year, and when at least 1 in 7 mothers suffers from a pregnancy related mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, at least 10,000 children and families are at risk when their mothers don’t get the critical postpartum support they need.
MCPAP for Moms was launched in July 2014 is now a model on the national stage for ensuring healthy families. In many areas of my state, especially rural ones where I live, there is a glaring lack of health care providers who understand the diagnosis and treatment for mothers suffering from pregnancy related mood disorders. All obstetrical providers who come into contact with new mothers can now call a warm-line and receive guidance from psychiatric experts as well as referrals in their community. In addition, the program provides capacity building training from another great advocate and leader, MotherWoman, for support groups and professional coalitions across the state to strengthen the skills of the medical community in each unique county of our state. Already, more than 400 mothers and their families have been directly impacted by this program.
Unfortunately, in the world of governments which are always looking at budget shortfalls, the MCPAP Program is presently not being funded at a level that would allow it to keep the Moms portion. Truly, we all understand that there are many, many worthy programs and not enough budget funds to go around, but in this case there is already in place a requirement for commercial insurers to cover the cost of serving their members. This revenue stream is expected to add $1.6M to the state operating fund, which will more than offset the $500,000 in funding required to keep MCPAP for moms alive and growing.
As we see play out in various crises all over the world, untreated mental health issues can have disastrous consequences. Massachusetts must continue to be, and I’m not exaggerating here, a world leader in providing mental health screening and treatment for our children and their mothers. If you live here in this great Commonwealth with me, please contact your state Senator and tell them this:
Our mothers deserve quality professional care to treat postpartum related mood disorders. 10,000 children’s live will be directly impacted if we fail to ensure the MCPAP for Moms project stays in place, so please make sure that MCPAP (Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project) funding is increased to $3.6 million on line item 5042-5000.
Alternatively, any mom can sign the online petition at Change.org asking for the program to be funded by clicking the link.
~ Deborah Rimmler