Department of Health Hosts “Reach Out PA” to Discuss Maternal Mental Health

In coordination with Governor Tom Wolf’s “Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters” initiative announced earlier this year, Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine joined Sen. Pam Iovino at Robert Morris University to lead a roundtable discussion on the topic of maternal mental health.

The Reach Out PA initiative is a multi-agency effort and anti-stigma campaign aimed at expanding resources and the state’s comprehensive support of mental health and related health care priorities in Pennsylvania. Reach Out PA will address many recommendations for improving mental-health services laid out by the Council on Reform, created last year by the governor’s executive order to protect vulnerable populations.

Gov. Wolf proclaimed Jan. 23 Maternal Health Awareness Day, stating “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is committed to the health and well-being of the women and families in our state. Improving maternal care systems is vital to ensuring the health and success of our families and communities.”

“As part of the Governor’s Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters campaign, we want everyone to feel comfortable speaking about their mental health,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Talking about maternal mental health issues and the resources women need is essential to making sure new mothers have access to the proper care. Understanding that it is okay to not feel okay is essential as we work to establish a healthy Pennsylvania for all.

“At the same time, as advocates and leaders, we must acknowledge the weaknesses in the mental-health system and find ways to ensure that every Pennsylvanian has access to the care they need regardless of location, income and the type of care needed.”

According to a 2017 study from the University of Southern California, approximately 1 million adult Pennsylvanians struggled with serious psychological distress at least once in 2015. Of those adults, more than 27 percent had an unmet need for mental health care. That population includes 42 percent who did not receive mental health care because they could not afford it.

At Monday’s roundtable, maternal mental health providers and advocates, along with community members joined Dr. Levine and Sen. Iovino to focus the discussion on mental health needs and barriers to treatment for women, especially expecting and new moms.

“When left untreated, maternal mental health disorders such as postpartum depression can be devastating for the mother and family and can have long-term health impacts on the child,” said Senator Pam Iovino. “The good news is that effective treatments are available, and that through the Reach Out PA initiative, Pennsylvania can help more mothers access assistance. The insight and expertise we heard at today’s roundtable will support efforts to craft policy that helps all mothers and their children live happy and healthy lives.”

In addition to a series of Reach Out PA roundtables, Gov. Wolf introduced an online form for public comment on needs, barriers, and access. Since the form posted, more than 1,000 Pennsylvanians have provided feedback and insight.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or is considering suicide, help is available. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact Crisis Text Line by texting PA to 741-741.