Bill to expand Medi-Cal postpartum mental health services finds widespread support

A bill to expand services for Medi-Cal beneficiaries experiencing maternal mental health conditions is finding support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. 

The bill, AB 577, would extend postpartum care for diagnosed mental illnesses, such as postpartum depression, from 60 days to up to one year for those who qualify for Medi-Cal. 

 

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Los Angeles County Supervisors Hilda L. Solis and Janice Hahn introduced a motion calling on the Board of Supervisors to send a letter to the bill’s author, legislative leadership, and the governor in support of the legislation. The Board approved the motion earlier this week. 

Following approval, Solis released the following statement:

“AB 577 is essential to close gaps in maternal mental health services provided to patients with mental health conditions. In California, one in five women suffer from pregnancy-related depression. Unfortunately, due to systemic barriers in our mental health care system, less than 15 percent of these women are treated. Each year, nearly 10,000 mothers give birth to children at a LA County Department of Health Services hospital. Approximately 51 percent of mothers in LA County have reported experiencing postpartum depression, with 9.9 percent and 3.4 percent respectively reporting they are either moderately or very depressed. Left untreated, new mothers silently suffer while their physical and emotional well-being is severely compromised in the short and long-term.

This is a health equity issue. Women from low-income households are 11 times more likely to develop postpartum depression symptoms than women of higher socioeconomic status. Many of these women juggle more than one job, and are raising more than one child, while struggling to make ends meet. These stressors often lead to an undiagnosed mental health condition which can adversely affect the health of the entire family. Further, if a mother struggles with untreated postpartum depression, their infants and young children are more likely to experience difficulty reaching developmental milestones. This leads to worse outcomes for all.

Currently, mothers who qualify for Medi-Cal can access postpartum care, including mental health services, but these benefits end 60 days after the last day of pregnancy. However, since postpartum depression can occur up to a year after giving birth, this is not enough time for these new mothers to heal. Extending these benefits is vital for the well-being of new mothers and their infants.”

The bill is co-sponsored by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the March of Dimes, and is supported by the California Medical Association, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics (California).

AB 577 passed out of the Senate Health Committee at the beginning of July and is scheduled for a committee hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday.