January 15, 2009

Susan Dowd Stone shares hopeful thoughts on the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS ACT

Susan Dowd Stone submitted the following article to EmpowHer yesterday and I want to help spread this info around because it's so crucial that this much-needed legislation gets passed. Please read below and click here to find out more about Susan and the tremendous work she is doing.

Attention advocates of America’s mothers and the thousands of courageous women who are experiencing or who have survived a pregnancy or postpartum depression – you have not been forgotten. For among the significant challenges facing the 111th Congress, the issue of untreated maternal depression remains a top priority. One new Congressional focus is the rebuilding of national infrastructure. One might make the analogy that this should include enhancing the healthy infrastructure of our families by ending the preventable plague of maternal mood disorders which continues to ravage over 800,000 women – and their infants and families – every year. The long-term consequences of untreated maternal depression range from chronic illness, child learning disabilities, family stress and economic loss - to death.  

Congressman Bobby L. Rush has reintroduced The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act to the 111th Congress. During the 110th Congress, the legislation had over 130 bi-partisan cosponsors and passed the United States House of Representatives on October 15th, 2007 by a vote of 382-3. I was so very proud to be sitting in the Congressional Gallery on that triumphant day as a unified Congress validated the suffering of millions of American women and families by promising more support to help end this public health crisis. Congressman Rush never forgot the Chicago constituent – Melanie Blocker Stokes – who lost her life to this illness and whose tragic death inspired his decades long devotion to end maternal suffering.  

In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Robert Menendez has been similarly steadfast in his devotion and promotion of The MOTHERS Act. Initially based on New Jersey’s groundbreaking law inspired by PPD Survivor and former New Jersey First Lady Mary Jo Codey and spearheaded to passage by her husband N.J. State Senate President Richard Codey, the passage of this legislation has resulted in increased availability of services, public awareness campaigns and state-wide hot lines responsive to the crisis. While repeated attempts by Sen. Menendez and other senate leaders to pass the bill last fall narrowly missed, one pivotal result was that the national spotlight again became fixed on this incomprehensible Congressional stalemate. 

The resulting new waves of national attention and support for this bill and its clear, purposeful mission have further galvanized public support and public outcry for its passage. The research, education, public awareness campaigns and grants for treatment and supportive services requested in The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act will help to end the untold agony that too often goes unrecognized, undiagnosed and untreated. 

The countless women who walk through my practice door feeling shamed and marginalized for the medical illness they are trying to fight alone must know that these common disorders can afflict anyone - that these illness are treatable - that they did nothing to cause it - that they will be well again! That they are NOT ALONE!  

As president-elect Barack Obama - one of the bill’s initial lead sponsors – takes the nation’s helm this week, we anticipate a timely convergence of forces which will lend impetus to the bill’s passage this year.  

In addition to our legislative leaders, many thanks to all of you who have given voice and time and energy to turn this tide on the ignorance and suffering that has plagued American mothers and their families for decades – your moment is coming. With your renewed support and advocacy, we will pass The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act in 2009!  

SUMMARY OF THE LEGISLATION Section 1: Short title of the bill- The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act.  
TITLE I- Research  
• Encourages HHS to coordinate and continue research to expand the understanding of the causes of, and find treatments for, postpartum conditions. Also, encourages a National Public Awareness Campaign, to be administered by HHS, to increase awareness and knowledge of postpartum depression and psychosis.  
• Sense of Congress that the Director of the NIH may conduct a nationally representative longitudinal study of the relative mental health consequences for women of resolving a pregnancy (intended or unintended) in various ways, including carrying the pregnancy to term and parenting the child, carrying the pregnancy to term and placing the child for adoption, miscarriage, and having an abortion. This study may assess the incidence, timing, magnitude, and duration of the immediate and long-term mental health consequences (positive and negative) of these pregnancy outcomes. 
TITLE II- Delivery of Services 
• Encourages HHS to make grants available for projects for the establishment, operation, and coordination of systems for the delivery of essential services to individuals with postpartum depression. (Entities): Makes grants available to public or nonprofit private entity, which may include a State or local government, a public-private partnership, a recipient of a grant under the Healthy Start program, a public or nonprofit private hospital, community-based organization, hospice, ambulatory care facility, community health center, migrant health center, public housing primary care center, or homeless health center, or any other appropriate public or nonprofit private entity. o (Activities): Eligible activities include delivering or enhancing outpatient, inpatient and home-based health and support services, including case management and comprehensive treatment services for individuals with or at risk for postpartum conditions. Activities may also include providing education about postpartum conditions to new mothers and their families, including symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources, in order to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment.  
TITLE III- General Provisions 
• (Funding): Authorizes $3,000,000 for fiscal year 2008; and such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years 2009 and 2010.  
• (HHS Report): Requires the Secretary of HHS to conduct a study on the benefits of screening for postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.  
• (Limitation): The Secretary may not utilize amounts made available under this Act to carry out activities or programs that are duplicative of activities or programs that are currently being carried out through the Dept of HHS.  

SUPPORTERS: Postpartum Support International Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses American Psychological Association American Psychiatric Association Children’s Defense Fund American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists March of Dimes Mental Health America American College of Nurse Midwives National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Suicide Prevention Action Network USA National Alliance on Mental Illness Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs National Partnership for Women & Families OWL- The Voice of Midlife and Older Women National Women’s Law Center

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