Local State legislators introduce maternal mental health package

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — State Senator Samra Brouk (D, 55) along with several of her colleagues are introducing a package of three new bills to address maternal mental health.

One bill, Senate Bill 7865 would require maternal health care providers to invite mothers to fill out a questionnaire to detect maternal depression and other mood disorders during prenatal care, during a well-child checkup before the baby’s first birthday and during follow-up visits to the OB/GYN.

Senate Bill 7753 requires the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Department of Health to conduct a study on the inadequacies of existing postpartum depression screening tools.

Senate Bill 7752 directs the OMH to create a Maternal Mental Health Workgroup to study and issue recommendations related to the diagnosis and treatment of maternal mental health and perinatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

The senators say they’re especially aiming to serve particularly under-served communities.

Brouk says Black women are twice as likely to experience mental health challenges during pregnancy and childbirth, but they’re half as likely to seek help.

She says children can be impacted by the problem too, without proper support.

"We need parity," Brouk said. "We need the exact same resources sent to mental health because they are hand in hand and you can not be physically well without being mentally well, and that’s what we’re really trying to hit home here and that’s why we’re taking the time to really focus on these efforts, and I believe all of us as legislators and advocates are committed to ensuring that we’re not just introducing this legislation this year but that we’re passing this legislation this year."

Maternal mental health conditions are very common, affecting one in every five women.

Brouk is working with Assemblywomen Sarah Clark (D, 136), Jessica González-Rojas (D, 34), and Michaëlle Solages (D, 22), who are all mothers, on this new legislation.