A National Push to Improve Maternal Mental Health: HHS Releases a Robust Strategy

Pregnant womanPhoto by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States continues to grapple with the highest rate of maternal mortality among well-resourced countries. Shockingly, over 22% of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. result from suicide, drug overdoses, and other mental health or substance use related reasons. In response, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently launched a national strategy to tackle this pressing public health issue.

The Task Force on Maternal Mental Health, a segment of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Advisory Committee for Women’s Services, formulated this strategy. It aligns with the wider federal efforts such as the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis and the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research.

“Addressing the maternal mental health crisis is a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. Many of these tragic deaths can be prevented by eliminating health disparities and understanding the impact of mental health during pregnancy and in the first months as a parent,” noted HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The U.S. sees around one in five individuals grappling with mental health conditions and substance use disorders (SUD) during pregnancy and the postpartum period. However, these issues intensify among Black and American Indian/Alaska Native individuals and others in under-resourced communities. The national strategy is a proactive step towards understanding and alleviating the struggles that these individuals face.

Deputy Secretary of HHS, Andrea Palm emphasized that the new strategy would enhance their ongoing work to improve access to care, particularly integrating perinatal behavioral health across health and social systems.

READ:  Chester County Teen Awarded Scholarship for Mental Health Advocacy

The Task Force on Maternal Mental Health comprises experts from fields such as obstetrics and gynecology, maternal and child health, psychiatry, psychology, counseling, and community behavioral health. The goal is straightforward – address the national crisis of maternal mental health.

Admiral Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health, praised the task force’s comprehensive approach: “The effort this task force put forth in developing comprehensive recommendations on ways to address the maternal mental health crisis is important towards informing HHS’ strategy moving forward. We look forward to reviewing the recommendations proposed in National Strategy to Improve Maternal Mental Health Care to improve maternal mental health outcomes.”

Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon highlighted the importance of the task force’s suggestions: “Many of these deaths are preventable, and we are grateful for the task force’s recommendations included in this National Strategy to address these critical challenges.”

The task force’s vision includes the seamless integration of perinatal mental health and substance use care across medical, community, and social systems. This vision is grounded in increasing equity and access, bolstering federal coordination, and elevating culturally relevant supports and trauma-informed approaches.

The national strategy includes five main pillars: establishing a national infrastructure prioritizing perinatal mental health and reducing disparities; ensuring accessible, affordable, and fair care; harnessing data for better outcomes and transparency; promoting prevention and community engagement; and amplifying the voices of those with lived experience.

This strategy is not static. The task force will regularly update it, and the federal government will use it as a guide as it continues working to resolve the maternal mental health crisis.

READ:  Chester County Teen Awarded Scholarship for Mental Health Advocacy

For the latest news on everything happening in Chester County and the surrounding area, be sure to follow MyChesCo on Google News and Microsoft Start.