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Brooke Shields, Sen. Menendez herald arrival of new era in maternal mental health

Posted May 11 2010 9:47am
Featured Blogger

The lovely and gracious Brooke Shields thrilled the participants at this press conference as she took the stage with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and other NJ advocates to proclaim victory for America’s mothers yesterday morning.

To see pictures from yesterday’s event, click here.

Just back from a European tour, starring in a Broadway play and releasing a new movie, “Furry Vengeance” Ms. Shields took time from her packed schedule to demonstrate her commitment to the issue she has long championed – maternal mental health.

Standing among the participants of mothers and their babies, advocates and healthcare professionals, Ms. Shields declared the role closest to her heart would always be that of mother. She became emotional when thanking Senator Menendez and the group of advocates for this “best Mother’s Day gift ever”.

Senator Menendez, who has tirelessly worked to include this bill in the recently passed healthcare reform legislation, spoke about the many benefits this legislation will bring to maternal mental health including further research, public awareness campaigns and grants for programs supportive to new and pregnant women struggling with these disorders.

He recognized the efforts of Former N.J. First Lady Mary Jo Codey and her husband Governor Richard Codey in having initiated the nation’s first state based law requiring attention to these illnesses, screening and education of healthcare professionals. Mary Jo’s program “Speak Up When You’re Down” , has saved lives and brought awareness to New Jersey families and is now a template for other state based programs across the country. Senator Menendez speaking to Mary Jo stated, “Without your efforts, we would not be here today”.

Senator Menendez also noted the considerable contributions of author Sylvia Lasalandra, whose book “A Daughter’s Touch” has indeed touched so many hearts and lives with its riveting account of her experiences with postpartum depression and the message of hope and family support it conveys. Sylvia thanked her daughter Melina Lasalandra Frodella, who she stated lives in her heart and is her daily inspiration in continuing the fight to help mothers.

I was humbled that Senator Menendez thanked me, representing Postpartum Support International and The Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition for my “influencial and powerful voice in garnering support for the legislation.” Perinatal Pro hosted a national petition in support of the bill and will continue to expand it in support of the bill’s funding! My own inspiration, in addition to the advocates present at yesterday’s function, is my daughter Julia who has always supported her mother’s efforts, joining with us to end this public health crisis.

In my comments, I noted that not once over the last seven years of advocacy, had I ever been approached by a pharmaceutical company to subsidize my advocacy, pay me consulting fees to promote their products, introduce forced medication into this legislation or advertise on my website (which is free from all commercial endorsements).

Indeed the bill does NOT subsidize medication or encourage its usage. What it DOES do is promote more research, public awareness, education and services for pregnant and new mom’s struggling from these disorders. The minority who characterized the bill as a diabolical attempt to medicate America’s mothers, did not succeed in discouraging support with these misrepresentations, but instead stimulated the debate that further clarified the legislation’s true purpose and garnered more support from mothers, legislators and those from organizational and professional communities dedicated to helping them.

Each woman’s recovery plan will be as unique as her experience and if medication is needed to end the agony of her symptoms, she should be supported and encouraged, with her healthcare professional always weighing the risk/benefits. The life-saving benefits of medication for any illness is a decision made between client and clinician.

Nonetheless, the bill does NOT subsidize medication and instead looks to fund a wide spectrum of programs and services to fulfill its noble mission. Examples of existing programs which demonstrate alignment with the bill’s initiatives are:

CBS Cares public service announcements on postpartum depression. The first national network to address this need, CBS donated millions of dollars in primetime airspace to deliver these life saving messages.

Postpartum Support International’s FREE weekly Chat with the Expert Sessions

TEXT4BABY , a FREE program launched through Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies which advantages text messaging by sending health reminders to pregnant and postpartum mothers.’s - MediSpin’s educational programs, initially funded by NIMH which offered FREE CEU courses for healthcare professionals.

Another highlight from yesterday’s event for me was Senator Menendez’s recognition of the contributions of Emma Palmer, women’s health legislative assistant. Emma has coordinated the efforts among all the bill’s supporters for years. We all relied on her feedback and direction when attempting to galvanize support or organize rallies during pivotal moments in the legislation’s progress. THANK YOU Emma!!

Express your support for the bill’s funding by sending an email to me at indicating your name, any affiliation and state, and it will be added to the national petition which will be sent to the appropriations committee.

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