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Ruiz, Cunningham, Pou Bills to Improve Access to Maternal Mental Health Services Advance

Trenton – In response to rising rates of postpartum depression around the country, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee advanced two bills to improve access to maternal mental health services.

“While we all know that bringing a newborn home is filled with a lot of love and excitement, it can also be an overwhelming time for new parents. It is crucial we make every effort to make resources available to women experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “By requiring the Department of Health to implement a comprehensive strategic plan to improve accessibility of services and raise awareness to reduce the stigmas associated with mental health issues, we can ensure more mothers get the treatment that they need, so they can better care for themselves and their children.”

The first bill, S-705, sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, would require the Department of Health to develop and implement a plan to improve access to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders screening, referral, treatment and support services.

“Many women struggle with anxiety and depression during or after their pregnancy. Unfortunately, the stigma around mental illness and the general belief that having a baby should be a joyful time in one’s life, make it hard for new and expecting mothers to admit they’re in need of help,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “This legislation will assist in identifying those women and connecting them with services that meet their needs and fit their lifestyle.”

The second bill, S-890, sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou, would require the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services to identify and take appropriate steps to secure federal funding to support maternal mental health in New Jersey.

“As we work to improve and expand maternal mental health services, the 21st Century Cures Act can provide much needed financial support to bolster our efforts,” said Senator Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic). “As the state faces budgetary shortfalls, it is critical we take advantage of federal funding wherever possible.”

Both bills were released from committee by votes of 6-0.