Supporting the Mental Health of New and Expectant Mothers through Medicaid

May marks National Mental Health Month – an important month of commemoration, considering that an estimated 1 in 5 adults across the U.S. lives with mental illness. May is also a month of celebration of women, through Women’s Health Month, and of mothers, through Mother’s Day.

Mental health is a critical part of the overall well-being of new and expectant mothers. Sadly, it’s been an issue of even greater significance during the COVID-19 crisis. As the single largest payer for mental health services, Medicaid plays a unique role in the lives of women with mental health challenges – and it’s important we continue to strengthen this vital program now more than ever.

New and expectant mothers face major life changes and many experience physical and mental health hardship. Depression and a range of other mental health disorders impact women most often in the perinatal period – which spans from when a woman is pregnant through the first year after the baby’s birth.

Modern Medicaid Alliance partners have carried out initiatives from innovative care models to communications efforts to support maternal mental health. Here are some examples of the work of our partners.

Convening Thought Leaders

As th­e nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness, Alliance partner Mental Health America is acutely aware of the prevalence of mental health issues for new and expectant mothers, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.

Earlier this month, Mental Health America hosted a webinar on maternal and family mental health with panelists from Therapy for Black Kids, Postpartum Support International, and 2020Mom. Further, Mental Health America maintains numerous essential resources on maternal mental health, including a screening for postpartum depression and a guide to navigating the mental health challenges that may arise from pregnancy and childbirth.

Leveraging Expertise to Improve Health Outcomes

Last December, Alliance partner Nurse-Family Partnership joined forces with Child First, a national, evidence-based intervention model which stabilizes families and improves the health and wellbeing of both parents and children. Child First supports caregivers so that they can develop and sustain nurturing, consistent, and responsive relationships with their children.

By combining their organizations’ expertise, Nurse-Family Partnership and Child First are employing an evidence-based home visiting model with a team- and relationship-based approach in 4 states – North Carolina, Florida, Connecticut, and Colorado – to help meet the emotional needs of the family. The model, which uses child-parent psychotherapy and weaves in other approaches to mental health, features a care coordinator who works with the caregiver to identify the unique needs and stressors of the family then links them with services to help meet those needs. The program is funded in part by Medicaid and includes many families who qualify for the program.

The program is showing specific and strong outcomes in decreasing depression or mental health problems in mothers receiving the intervention, reducing caregiver stress and depression and child behavioral problems, as well as positive outcomes on addressing child communications challenges.

Harnessing Innovation and Disseminating Best Practices

As a national resource, partner, and advocate for state public health leaders, the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) is committed to disseminating best practices, providing technical assistance and convening leaders to share experiences to reach the common goal of healthy children, families, and communities.

A core part of this effort is the AMCHP Innovation Hub, an online platform that provides health care professionals with tools and resources to explore, build, and share successful and effective practices from the maternal and child health field. The Innovation Hub has numerous resources and best practices guides related to maternal mental health, including:

While more work is needed to dispel stigmas around mental health and provide new and expectant mothers with the mental health resources they need, Modern Medicaid Alliance partners are at the forefront of this vital issue.