By Susan Dowd Stone
While we await positive action from our nation’s legislators on The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act, questions arise. Some have wondered why we need a federal bill in place when we have so many well known organizations and individuals devoted to ending the ignorance of pregnancy related mood disorders. Hasn’t this issue received enough attention these past three years? With all the media, famous advocates and well respected leaders speaking out, the growing science and research substantiating the seriousness of untreated maternal depression – aren’t we done? Aren’t many thousands more people now aware of postpartum depression, thanks to the CBS Cares public service campaign, news stories on every major and local network, the power of the blogosphere, conferences, state’s responses and organizations like PSI, EmpowHer and many others? And aren’t there now more services and treatment options available as mothers face what is often the fight of their life? NO. We are barely beyond the starting line.
It’s true we now have two states out of 50 with legislation on the books strongly encouraging screening, education for consumers and healthcare providers and services for new mothers. Many other states are in the process of developing programs thanks to the tireless efforts of grassroots organizations and advocates who have decided that lives will not be lost on their watch by the devastation of untreated maternal depression. But their sustainability is uncertain and often depends on the generosity of donors and foundations besieged with requests for funding. We now have one or maybe two hospitals in the whole country where women can seek treatment with their infants and avoid the damaging and often unnecessary separations when intense services are required.
We need a federal response because research and education .. not geography... should determine what services will be consistently available to all American mothers. And that is exactly the goal that The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act intends to initiate.
There is nothing in TMBSMA that suggests mandates for anything..