Mental Health Month: Bills that await California Assembly’s approval to improve maternal mental health

Mental Health Month: Bills that await California Assembly’s approval to improve maternal mental health

Nina Jacobs had for long cherished the dream of becoming a mother. And when the time finally came, she would be anxious most of the time. Brushing aside her thoughts as the usual “baby blues,” she continued with her routine medical check-ups. After delivery, however, what Nina experienced was in contrast to how a mother feels after childbirth. In fact, she had become a person imbued with distress and apprehension. These feelings crippled her, inhibiting any effort she made to bond with her son. It was only after she consulted a psychiatrist that Nina found out about her postpartum depression.

Many women suffer from perinatal mood disorders, including postpartum depression in the United States. Unfortunately, the mental health of mothers – either during the phase of pregnancy or after the delivery – is mostly overlooked. In the process, we not only compromise with their well-being, but also of the newborns.

However, Californian lawmaker Brian Maienschein seems to be serious about maternal mental health. Earlier in 2018, the Republican leader introduced a couple of bills aimed at improving the condition of maternal mental health in the state. These bills – AB-1893 and AB-2193 – aim to increase funding for development of programs related to maternal mental health, mandatory screening and creation of quality management programs for expecting and new mothers to identify any mental health disorders.

What to expect of the bills?

Studies over the years have shown that one in 10 women experiences the symptoms of depression, often referred to as “baby blues.” However, baby blues and postpartum depression are completely different, the former being a far less serious condition.

Health care bill AB 2193 – introduced in the California Assembly on Feb. 12, 2018 – seeks to make it mandatory for any health care practitioner to screen the mother before and after delivery, during the postpartum period for symptoms of any mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or psychosis. It requires them to make a report of the outcome and share the same with the primary physician.

The bill, which was amended in the assembly on Apr. 30, 2018, also calls for setting up of a case management system by health insurers, something which is already in place for conditions like diabetes or other ailments. The aim is to ensure that any woman diagnosed with a maternal health condition is able to connect to relevant therapists and seek appropriate treatment. Moreover, policies and contracts related to health care would also cover maternal mental health issues and the case management program starting 2019, if the bill is passed.

Another bill AB-1893 – introduced on Jan. 18, 2018 – would require the Department of Public Health to apply for federal funding in order to support maternal mental health. The aim is ensure that all maternal mental health programs are financed completely by federal funds.

Be mentally healthy, seek help now

With the United States observing the ongoing Mental Health Month, this is the time to give such legislations a much-needed push. Postpartum depression is an issue that affects countless women. Yet, very few medical providers ensure that pregnant mothers are aware and educated about the symptoms of this condition which would allow for early identification and make sure that they receive adequate care and treatment. Maternal mental health issues should be treated akin to any other mental health illness. It requires a timely diagnosis with proper expert medical treatment to ensure healthy recovery.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms related to maternal mental health or feel that you are suffering from any other mental issue, you can seek help from the California Mental Health Helpline. You can call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online with our representative to take guidance regarding the best mental health treatment centers in California.