Trenton – Seeking to bolster state resources for the screening and treatment of women suffering from maternal mental health ailments, the Senate today approved a bill requiring the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services to ramp up efforts to secure and utilize available federal funding for needed programs.
“Though symptoms and problems associated with maternal depression are nothing new, they often go under-diagnosed. We must continue to find ways to improve and maintain programs for screening, assessment and mental health treatment for women in New Jersey who are pregnant, or who have recently given birth,” said Senator Nellie Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic), the bill’s chief sponsor. “Federal dollars will help us improve these programs, and provide greater access, especially for women living in medically underserved areas.”
The bill, S-890, would require the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services to take steps to secure federal grant money available for supporting maternal mental health programs including but not limited to that available via the “21st Century Cures Act.” The departments would be required to report to the Legislature on their progress by Sept. 1, 2021.
“New Jersey is a leader on this issue, and has been for some time, especially since my wife Mary Jo’s time as first lady when she worked extensively to help others who were suffering, as she did, from maternal depression,” said Senator Richard Codey, a co-prime sponsor of the bill. “We will not have met our obligation until we put in place supports to improve maternal mental health in every community in New Jersey.”
In 2018, seven states received federal grants under the “21st Century Cures Act” for treating maternal depression. Those grants totaled roughly $4.5 million, with the highest award being $650,000.
The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 33-0.