WILKES-BARRE – Bipartisan legislation that would offer state assistance to Pennsylvania mothers struggling with postpartum depression and their babies was unanimously approved this week by the House of Representatives.
House Bill 200, co-sponsored by Reps. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, and Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh County, now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Under the proposal, mothers at high risk for postpartum depression and their infants who are referred by a physician, health care provider or parent would be automatically eligible for assessment and tracking by Pennsylvania’s Early Intervention programs under the Early Intervention Services System Act. These programs exist in all of the state’s 67 counties.
“Not only does this bill help ensure that at-risk infants grow up to be happy and healthy adults, but it also creates a critical new connection to mental health services for Pennsylvania moms suffering from depression,” Toohil said in a press release. “In the process, it helps fight the isolation and stigma these moms encounter during what is supposed to be ‘the happiest time of their lives.’”
According to the American Psychological Association, about 15 percent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. This means that approximately 21,000 babies and their mothers in Pennsylvania are affected by the condition annually.
“This legislation offers a critical helping hand to Pennsylvania families,” Schlossberg said. “It’s designed to catch infant developmental delays at the earliest possible stage and avoid health and behavioral problems that might otherwise follow them for a lifetime.”
A companion bill in the Senate currently sits with the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Gov. Tom Wolf urged the Senate to quickly pass it.
“Supporting new moms is critically important to protect the health and well-being of Pennsylvania families,” Wolf said. “This bill is a smart step toward supporting moms after they give birth. We must continue to work together to expand health care access in the commonwealth, and it is my hope that this commonsense legislation gets to my desk as soon as possible.”
According to the sponsors, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that PPD can lead to increased costs of medical care, child abuse and neglect, and can adversely affect a child’s early brain development. The Academy recommends pediatricians refer the mother and her infant to community services that serve them together. Because of the costs of postpartum depression and risks to infants, this legislation would include postpartum depression as an At Risk Category for Early Intervention Tracking under state law.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.