Our work shaping and reporting on national mental health policy is made possible through a 2023-2024 capacity grant from the Perigee Fund.

Today, the Federal Maternal Mental Health Task Force released the first iteration of a national strategy for maternal mental health in America. 

In 2022, as a result of the TRIUMPH for New Moms Act passing as a part of the Omnibus funding bill, Congress directed the task force to evaluate federal maternal mental health care programs and identify a set of evidence-based, evidence-informed, and promising practices for implementation across the country, with a focus on mental health equity and trauma-informed practices. The focus is on both mental health and substance use disorders, and acknowledges social drivers and interpersonal violence as risk factors.

The Task Force has run for roughly 12 months so far and will sunset in 2027. Additional updates to the strategy and reports to Congress will be provided over this time. 

Several new initiatives were also announced today, which are not included in the task force report, including a new initiative within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the creation of a new women’s mental health technical assistance center. 

The new Task Force’s initial strategic plan can be found here, and is divided into the following recommendation sections:

1. Build a national infrastructure that prioritizes perinatal mental health and well-being, which entails establishing and enhancing federal policies that promote perinatal mental health and well-being, with a focus on reducing disparities; and establishing and enhancing federal policies that promote integrated perinatal and mental health and SUD care models with holistic support for maternal-infant dyads and families from multi- and interdisciplinary teams.

2. Make care and services accessible, affordable, and equitable, which advances the implementation of culturally relevant and trauma-informed clinical screening and improvement of linkages to accessible early intervention and treatment; creates accessible and integrated evidence-based services that are affordable and reimbursable; and builds capacity by training, expanding, and diversifying the perinatal mental health workforce.

3. Use data and research to improve outcomes and accountability, which encompasses the evidence-driven support of strategies and innovations that improve outcomes; and building a foundation for accountability in prevention, screening, intervention, and treatment. 

4. Promote prevention and engage, educate, and partner with communities, which involves promoting and funding prevention strategies, elevates education of the public about perinatal mental health and substance use, and engages communities with outreach and communications. 

5. Lift up lived experience, which includes listening to the perspectives and voices of people with lived experience; and prioritizing the recommendations from people with lived experience (many of which overlap with those of the task force) as outlined in a specially prepared report by the United States Digital Service and summarized in this national strategy.

I’ve categorized the recommendations into the following sections:

  • Provide standardized integrated care (for both Medicaid and Commercially Insured) 
    • Implement mechanisms to address screening that is non-punitive/harmful to mothers to detect these disorders 
    • Screening for risk and provide preventive services 
  • Develop Maternity Care Centers (MCCs) to provide integrated care starting in Ob, hospital/birth center and maternal mental health shortage areas (“deserts”) 
  • Ensure access to crisis treatment and services including Inpatient and Outpatient treatment programs 
  • Create federal infrastructure for psychiatric consultation programs 
  • Extend postpartum Medicaid coverage (extension) in all states
  • Address Screening/Reimbursement for Providers, including Obstetric Providers 
  • Address diagnostic limitations of current diagnostic codes/specifiers
  • Support community based services and workforces such as peer support specialists funded through the healthcare system
  • Create mandatory provider training requirements for MH/SUD 
  • Invest in ways to build trust/ensure the healthcare systems are expanded/modified to address patient needs, including those who have been harmed by current systems and are not harmed by data collection/research efforts

  • Six-Months Paid Leave 
  • Provide Universal Child Care 
  • Provide Childcare Tax Credits 

  •   Build accountability through quality improvement systems
  •   Implement evidence based solutions in the healthcare system and with alignment to Perinatal Quality Collaboratives 

Next Steps

At the conclusion of the session today Dr. Nima Sheth, one of the government task force leaders explained that this is just the beginning. 

As champions of the development of the Task Force we will surely continue to share insights with the task force and document progress for the field. 

See our original recommendations submitted officially to the task force here.