U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that the bipartisan FY 2021 appropriations package includes $17 million in funding to support maternal health care services and to address the maternal mortality and postpartum depression (PPD) crises facing the nation. Early studies have found that PPD has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and this year’s funding is critical to combating this growing epidemic. Specifically, $3 million was awarded to help establish a Mental Health Hotline, a new program requested by Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Porter, to provide a 24-hour emergency contact for struggling mothers and families in need of immediate support. Gillibrand’s request for $5 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) program for the screening and treatment for maternal depression was also included in the final bill. The package also includes a key provision from Gillibrand’s Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards (MOMS) Act, which will provide $9 million in federal funding for the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) program to implement evidence-based health care to improve maternal outcomes.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the existing maternal mortality crisis in the United States. I am proud to have fought for this important and urgently needed funding, which will increase access to quality health care for pregnant and postpartum women,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The end-of-year spending bill included a critical provision from my MOMS Act bill to help implement evidence-based health care standards for all women, no matter their race or ethnicity. We must address the high and rising rates of maternal deaths and complications to ensure women are safe during and beyond this pandemic.”
The maternal mortality rate increased by 26 percent in the United States between 2000 and 2014. Each year it is estimated that as many as 50,000 women experience a complication during childbirth, and according to the CDC, an estimated 60 percent of these deaths and complications are preventable. Additionally, more Black women die from pregnancy-related complications in the United States than in any other developed nation. An NPR and ProPublica report found that for every woman who dies in childbirth in the United States, there are 70 more women who nearly die from a complication. The Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) is a program that works with states and hospital systems to implement evidence-based bundles on a range of important maternal safety topics including obstetric hemorrhage, severe hypertension in pregnancy, maternal mental health, obstetric care for women with opioid use disorder, and education of peripartum racial and ethnic disparities.
Nearly one in seven women experience Post-Partum Depression (PPD), a rate that was already increasing before stress from pandemic exacerbated this issue. From 2000 to 2015, the rate of depression diagnoses among women who had recently delivered in a hospital increased seven-fold. PPD can lead to maternal suicide, which is a greater cause of maternal mortality than hemorrhaging or hypertension. PPD is treatable with behavioral health interventions and/or pharmacologic therapy, but nearly 60 percent of women with symptoms currently do not receive a diagnosis and 50 percent with a diagnosis do not receive any treatment. Thousands of women currently grappling with both pregnancy and grief and women who lacked social support after the birth of a child are more likely to develop postpartum depression. The 24-hour Mental Health Hotline is a vital resource that will provide an emergency contact for struggling mothers who need immediate support until they can obtain appropriate services.
Senator Gillibrand is a champion for the health and rights of mothers and their families. Earlier this year, Senator Gillibrand introduced the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act to address maternal health disparities and ensure pregnant people– especially people of color and other at-risk populations– are supported in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2016, Congress took steps to support new mothers struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. Congresswomen Katherine Clark and Jaime Herrera Beutler, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and former Senator Dean Heller successfully passed the bipartisan Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act, to provide federal grants to develop and maintain programs for better screening and treatment of postpartum depression. This legislation, supported by the American Academy Pediatrics, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Psychiatric Association, and the March of Dimes Foundation, was signed into law in November 2016. It authorized key funding to help mothers struggling with postpartum depression and additional mental health conditions.