By Priscilla Liguori 1/27/2016

Massachusetts is working to make sure all new mothers are screened for Postpartum Depression (PPD).

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

The Massachusetts Special Legislative Commission on Postpartum Depression announced that a subcommittee has been created to make sure its goal of screening women for PPD does not become part of the already existing health disparity.

“We want women who may be underserved or are in that economic or socio-economic group to have access and feel like they could have a voice and speak up without a stigma,” said Vice President of Medical Affairs at Fallon Health and Commission member Dr. Lisa Price-Stevens.

PPD is depression among women after giving birth. Nationwide, about 1 in 7 women experience PPD for periods of time ranging from months to years.

Massachusetts Congresswoman, Katherine Clark joined chairs of the Commission, State Representative, Ellen Story and Massachusetts Senator, Joan Lovely, for the group meeting at the State House Jan. 27.

“Who wants to say ‘I have thoughts of stabbing my baby?” said a mom who attended the meeting. “I can’t imagine not having good health care.”

Priscilla Liguori/WEBN-TV

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

The Commission discussed the federal bill titled “Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act.” The bill amends the Public Health Service Act to allow the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to create grants to begin, maintain, and expand screening for depression among women who are pregnant or have given birth within 12 months.

“We want mothers to know that they are not alone, their suffering matters, and that needing help doesn’t make them a bad mom,” said Clark in a press release. “For too long, stigma and silence have been the biggest barriers to getting women the medical attention they need and deserve.”

Clark said her bill could help break those barriers by giving care providers the resources they need to screen and treat PPD.  Representative Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania joined Clark in introducing the bill to the House last July.

The Commission has been scheduling meetings to stay on top of developments and to be at the forefront of change as the bill makes its way through the legislation process.

“We can look at Massachusetts as a model,” Clark said. “We can help other states do this. We know that when it’s good for moms, it’s going to be good for our children.”

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

PPD survivors, legislators, doctors, and community groups were among the fifty people who shared data, input, and personal experiences at the meeting.

“When you bring all these folks together for a common cause, it’s great to have that dialogue where you can start to make a difference,” said Price-Stevens.

The group discussed the development of a centralPriscil website for people to access if they are experiencing or know a loved one experiencing PPD.

Rep. Story announced that the tentative date for the 2nd Annual PPD Awareness Day is June 14. The Commission is planning an event in the Great Hall at the State House with what Story described as a “great speaking agenda.”

The group also talked about promoting the hashtag “#LoveAnotherMother” on social media to support Clark’s bill.

Massachusetts is also trying to help mothers with day-to-day expenses. Sen. Lovely said the State House Diaper Drive is February 22-March 4. Donations will be given to Cradles to Crayons, a non-profit organization that helps low-income children.

“The more stress you can take off of a mother…that’s going to make it better for her and her family,” said Price-Stevens. “If it’s something as simple as diapers that are very expensive, if that is something we could do, then we should do it.”

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