U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing to increase funding to address the maternal mortality and postpartum depression crises in New York State and across the country in the bipartisan FY 2022 appropriations package. Specifically, she is calling for a $2 million increase in funding for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Maternal Mental Health Hotline. Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) successfully established the Hotline program in 2021 to provide 24-hour emergency contact for struggling mothers and families in need of immediate support. Additionally, the letter calls for a $5 million increase in funding for the Screening and Treatment for Maternal Depression and Related Behavioral Disorders Program (MDRBD). These resources will help prevent maternal deaths, eliminate inequities in maternal health outcomes, and improve overall maternal health outcomes.
“Maternal mortality in our country is an epidemic that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stress, isolation, inadequate access to health care, and socioeconomic inequities have negatively impacted maternal health this past year, and we must do everything in our power to support women throughout pregnancy and before, during, and after childbirth,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am pushing to include these federal dollars in the FY22 appropriations package to address postpartum depression and inequities in our nation’s maternal health care. I will always serve as a fierce advocate for women across the country and will fight to ensure that every mother receives high-quality health care regardless of race or socioeconomic status.”
Around one in seven women experience postpartum depression (PPD) in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the nation’s maternal health epidemic – pregnant women and new mothers experienced anxiety and depression 3 to 4 times the rate prior to the onset of the pandemic. PPD can lead to maternal suicide, which is a greater cause of maternal mortality than hemorrhaging or hypertension, and is treatable with behavioral health interventions or pharmacologic therapy. Unfortunately, 75 percent of women with symptoms of maternal mental health conditions go undiagnosed and untreated. More women die from pregnancy-related complications in the United States than in any other developed country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 700 pregnancy-related deaths occur in the U.S. each year, many of which are preventable.
Maternal mortality rates disproportionally impact women of color. Black women are 2.5 times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to die due to pregnancy-related complications and Indigenous women are 2-3 times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to die due to pregnancy-related complications. Additionally, women of color and women who live in poverty experienced maternal mental health conditions at rates 2 to 3 times higher than non-Hispanic white women during the pandemic.
Senator Gillibrand is a long-time champion for the health and rights of mothers and their families. Earlier this year, she successfully secured $17 million in maternal health care funding in the FY 2021 appropriations package. The package included a key provision from Gillibrand’s Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards (MOMS) Act, securing $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. Additionally, Senator Gillibrand joined a bipartisan push led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Marshall (R-KS) to increase funding to prevent maternal deaths and eliminate inequities in maternal health outcomes in the FY 2022 bipartisan appropriations package. In the letter, the senators call for increased funding for the Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services Block Grant, HRSA’s Healthy Start Program, CDC’s Safe Motherhood and Infant Health program, and for research at the National Institutes of Health. Gillibrand also joined Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to call for a $30 million investment in Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs) to support uniform data collection that will help inform future maternal health policy decisions, and to provide $15 million to support the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health Program and expand its reach to all states and territories.
The full text of Gillibrand’s letter to Senate Appropriators may be found here.