March 10, 2020

KENNEDY, UNDERWOOD, KATKO INTRODUCE MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH BILL

Bipartisan Moms MATTER Act creates task force, invests in best practices for new moms of color

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Joe Kennedy III today introduced the Moms MATTER Act to address critical maternal mental and behavioral health challenges facing women, focusing on minority women. Introduced with Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) and Congressman John Katko (R-NY-24), the bill also promotes innovative evidence-based programs that improve outcomes for women throughout their pregnancies and up to one year postpartum.

“For new moms of color, a mental health and substance use disorder crisis already plagued by stigma and stereotype only compounds deeply entrenched racism woven throughout our maternal health system,” said Representative Kennedy. “Any effort to treat new mothers with depression, anxiety, addiction or any other behavioral health diagnosis must put intentional, specific focus on Black moms. By passing the Moms MATTER Act, we will not only establish a task force to debate and discuss strategies to combat these inequities, but invest in innovative best practices like collaborative maternity care, freestanding birth centers and other culturally congruent care.”

“I am proud to join Congressman Kennedy, a longtime mental health champion and a Founding Member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, to introduce the bipartisan Moms MATTER Act. Maternal mortality review committees have identified mental health conditions as a leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths. The Moms MATTER Act is an important step in addressing maternal mental health conditions and substance use disorders, particularly for women of color,” said Representative Underwood, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus.

“As co-chair of the bipartisan Mental Health Caucus, I am committed to improving mental healthcare and am proud today to partner with Representatives Kennedy and Underwood in introducing the Moms MATTER Act,” said Representative Katko. “By establishing maternal health grant programs and a Maternal Mental and Behavioral Health Task Force, this legislation will take important steps to address maternal health outcomes in Central New York and across the country.”

Specifically, the Moms MATTER Act would:

  • Establish a Maternal Mental and Behavioral Health Task Force to improve mental and behavioral health outcomes for women throughout pregnancy and up to one year postpartum.
  • Establish grant programs to promote innovative approaches to improving maternal health outcomes with a particular focus on maternal mental health and substance use disorder for minority women, including:
  • Group prenatal and postpartum care models;
  • Collaborative maternity care models;
  • Clinics offering wraparound services to women with substance use disorders;
  • Programs at freestanding birth centers; and
  • Phone hotline programs to connect maternity care providers with mental and behavioral health specialists.

Introduced as part of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, the Moms MATTER Act is cosponsored by Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC-12), Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA-05), Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA-06) and Congressman Billy Long (R-MO-07).

“For decades, the US maternal mortality and morbidity rates have gotten worse for all mothers, but especially for Black women whose health outcomes are further compounded by systemic and structural racism,” said Representative Adams, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “This legislation says, unequivocally, that Black Moms matter. I’m proud to stand with Rep. Kennedy to tackle one of the greatest public health crises of our time.”

“The United States’ maternal mortality rate is exponentially higher than other developed countries and disproportionately impacts black women,” said Representative Scanlon. “Moms and families deserve better. We must do better to support the health and wellbeing of moms, and children, by ensuring that a range of wrap-around, life-saving, maternal healthcare services is available. I am grateful to my colleagues Rep. Underwood and Rep. Kennedy for their leadership on this critical issue.”

"We will be a stronger, healthier nation if every American has access to great mental health care. That so many Americans—moms, veterans, kids—don’t have good access today represents bad policy, bad values, and is terribly stupid economically,” said Representative Moulton. “Helping new moms facing overlooked mental health issues have options for care is a great step forward. I’m proud to join Representatives Underwood, Kennedy, and Katko in this effort.”

“I am proud to cosponsor the Moms MATTER Act because women need to have the resources necessary to cope with anxiety, depression, or other behavioral health issues while they adjust to their pregnancies and lives as new moms,“ said Representative Long.  “Mental health conditions have been identified as one of the leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths, yet these symptoms often go unaddressed for women of color. This legislation takes an important first step in addressing this problem by establishing a task force dedicated to offering pregnant women and new moms the support they need.”

The Moms MATTER Act has been endorsed by the following organizations: Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Center for Reproductive Rights, American Psychological Association, Mental Health America, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, National Birth Equity Collaborative, Ancient Song Doula Services, Mamatoto Village Inc, National Perinatal Task Force, Commonsense Childbirth, Every Mother Counts, 1,000 Days, First Focus Campaign for Children, Black Women's Health Imperative, American Public Health Association, MomsRising, National WIC Association, Families USA, American Association of Birth Centers, National Partnership for Women & Families, American College of Physicians, Mom Congress, American College of Nurse-Midwives, African American Breastfeeding Network, Healing Hands Community Doula Project, HealthConnect One, Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, SisterReach, Children's Defense Fund – Texas, BreastfeedLA, Children's HealthWatch, Northern Illinois Church Of God In Christ, National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC), Majaica, LLC & Save 100 Babies, United Ways of Texas, Society for Public Health Education, AllianceChicago, A Better Balance, California Breastfeeding Coalition, Muslims for Progressive Values, Dem Black Mamas Podcast, Jamila Taylor, Director of Health Care Reform and Sr. Fellow for the Century Foundation, Save The Mommies, APS Foundation of America, Inc, Jacobs Institute of Women's Health, Circle Up - United Methodist Women for Moms, Association of State Public Health Nutritionists, Lamaze International, Sésé Doula Services, Raising Women's Voices for the Health Care We Need, Power to Decide, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, The Afiya Center, and YWCA USA

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