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Advocating for Postpartum Depression and Early Intervention at the State Level

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Postpartum depression is a significant public health issue as it is frequently experienced and has a multi-generational impact. Evidence shows that young children of mothers with depression are more likely to exhibit a range of problems such as developmental delays, feeding problems, sleep difficulties, and internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems. These problems can lead to maladjustment later in life. In 2016, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended depression screening for pregnant and postpartum women, allowing for new opportunities of intervention. Several preventive interventions have been shown to be effective. However, mothers with postpartum depression can face many personal, practical, and system-level barriers to obtaining needed services. Two bills, were proposed in the Senate and House of Representatives in Pennsylvania to amend the Early Intervention Services Act to include postpartum depression as an eligibility criterion for the receipt of Early Intervention services. Early Intervention is a federal program that provides a myriad of services at the local level to support families to improve their children’s developmental trajectory. The proposed legislation allows for assessment, referral, and tracking, thereby expanding Early Intervention services to caregivers at high-risk or diagnosed with depression. #StrongMomStrongBaby is a statewide coalition of organizations that have been assembled to advocate for these bills based on a community demonstration project. In 2016, the coalition alongside two state Congressional members reintroduced the bills. The presentation will discuss the involvement of a child psychologist with research expertise in maternal depression in the coalition during three legislative years from 2016-2019. It will also address the progress and challenges of the bills over time, #StrongMomStrongBaby’s advocacy activities, and the application of empirical evidence. The Pennsylvania House passed its bill in 2018 and if the Pennsylvania Senate passes its bill, two unrelated systems, Early Intervention and behavioral health, must partner. This will involve developing an infrastructure to support and implement screening, monitoring and services to this new group of at-risk families. Implications for research evidence for potential implementation to facilitate healthier and more successful families will be discussed.

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