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Historic legislation good for people suffering from postpartum depression

Posted Jan 07 2010 12:47pm
By SUSAN DOWD STONE
Featured Blogger
Judging from the emails I’ve received recently, some clarification would be helpful in understanding who’s on first, who’s at bat and when we may finally see our home run for America’s mothers and infants.

First, you can start by listening to this audio post which explains the basic initiatives of The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act (i.e. MOTHERS Act) which do NOT include PPD screening or medication.

This new audio post includes interviews with Dr. Michael Petriella, OB/GYN from Hackensack University Medical Center; Celeste Andriot Wood, assistant commissioner of the N.J. Family Health Services, and myself, all of us hailing from New Jersey and having worked with PPD legislation as advocates, policy makers and health care practitioners.

This story originally aired on the nationally syndicated program Radio Health Journal in December 2009, and was produced by MediaTracks Communications.

The new Healthcare Reform legislation which just passed in the Senate, is called The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It contains many healthcare initiatives and new policies focused on improving women’s health and ACCESS to healthcare.

The two bills it includes most directly related to postpartum depression are:

The MOTHERS Act (you can read the bill here) which calls for PPD public awareness campaigns, education, research and funding of PPD services sponsored by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, and The Mikulski Amendment (you can read a summary of this bill here) the very FIRST amendment proposed, passed and included in this bill which calls for screening for postpartum depression (among other women’s medical conditions including cancer screenings). This bill is sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

These initiatives are separate bills both of which the Senate approved for inclusion in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Actm which passed in the Senate on Dec. 24.

But neither of these initiatives would be receiving the public awareness and legislative support were it not for early efforts in the House and Senate to promote postpartum depression research and education. Congressman Bobby Rush has long been a champion of PPD research and education since moved by the plight of his constituent Melanie Blocker Stokes.

Melanie, a beautiful, intelligent mother of a young child with every reason to live, leapt to her death as a result of untreated postpartum illness. Her mother Carol Blocker has waged a tireless campaign to end ignorance. These early champions including Richard and Mary Jo Codey, who dared to look such darkness in the face helped create the initial public platform that led to laws in Illinois and New Jersey demanding more attention to postpartum mental health issues.

Regardless of your political leanings, this bill contains historic emphasis on women’s health care issues. And for those of us who are devoted to ending the stigma and lack of response to the public mental health crisis of PPD, our moment has come. Finally, the science, the studies, the stories and the unimpeachable truth of the devastating and deadly effects of untreated maternal depression are no longer to be ignored to the detriment of millions.

The next step in the legislative process for these initiatives to become law, is for the House and Senate to reconcile the two versions of the bill and send the final version back to both houses for victorious and final passage.

There is every reason to be encouraged that our PPD intiatives will remain intact during these negotiations as the House has previously passed – by nearly unanimous consent – The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act thanks to the decades long efforts of its House leader, Congressman Bobby Rush.

When will this happen? The passage of these initiatives are dependent on the passage of the entire healthcare reform package. It is expected that the intense legislative focus on healthcare reform could result in final outcome by early spring.

Susan asks that anyone wishing to sign a petition supporting the health care bill may sign here.
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