Congress approves funding for maternal mental health

The historic funding is part of the stimulus package passed by Congress on December 20th.

Congress approves funding for maternal mental health
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When Congress reached an agreement on the $2.3 trillion dollar spending package earlier this week, most of the news coverage (rightly so) was focused on the billions of dollars earmarked for the COVID relief stimulus package.

If you're wondering, that $900 billion dollar COVID-19 relief bill provides stimulus checks to families, extends unemployment and rental assistance, increases food stamp benefits, and offers small business assistance, among other things.

The larger spending package also includes $8 million dollars in funding for maternal mental health.

The Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance calls the funding "historic."

According to the MMHLA, Congress has earmarked $3 million dollars to create and maintain a maternal mental health hotline. That hotline will be staffed by trained counselors, 24 hours a day, to help women in crisis. They estimate the cost of operating the hotline is less than 75 cents per new mother in America.

Congress also approved $5 million dollars to continue an ongoing maternal mental health program. The program was launched in 2018 and provides funding for five years to seven states (Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Vermont).

According to the MMHLA, each state participating in the program educates health providers on maternal mental health conditions so they can better screen and treat their patients. Real-time psychiatric consultations are also provided to healthcare providers for complex cases. Lastly, resources and referrals are offered to affected women and their families.

Congress has also requested that the Department of Health and Human Services provide a report "detailing how HHS agencies are addressing gaps in maternal mental health."

These services are critical and save lives.

The U.S. suffers from one of the highest maternal death rates in the developed world. According to the MMHLA, depression is the most common complication of pregnancy in the first year postpartum. Suicide and overdose are the leading causes of death for women in the first year postpartum.

This new maternal mental health hotline could save countless lives. Struggling mothers will soon be able to reach qualified mental health professionals from the safety of their homes.

We only hope that the success of the ongoing maternal mental health program in those seven states means that it will soon be extended to the rest of the country.

These provisions aren't law yet.

The spending relief package is now waiting on the President's approval.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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