21st Century Cures Act is a Victory for the Fight against Maternal Depression, Now What?

By Bridget Frese Hutchens, MSN, RN, CNM, Jamie Zahlaway Belsito and Joy Burkhard MBA

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

In December of 2016, maternal mental health advocates celebrated the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act which included support for identification and treatment of maternal depression. The 21st Century Cures Act adopted language from Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act of 2015.

More About the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of The Shadows Act

Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act of 2015 was first introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) on July 28, 2015. The Senate version of the bill was introduced on November 19, 2015 by Senator Dean Heller (D-Heller). In the spring of 2016, over forty maternal mental health advocates convened in Washington, D.C. to meet with legislators in support of Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act of 2015. After that, the language of this act was incorporated into the 21st Century Cures Act. The House overwhelming passed the 21st Century Cures Act on November 30, 2016 with a vote of 392-26. It then passed in the Senate on December 7, 2016 with a vote of 94-5. President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law on December 13, 2016. This law is a huge victory, but it does not guarantee the necessary funding. These funds must be allocated by Congress to secure that these grants will be available to the states.

If funded, $5 million each fiscal year from 2018-2022 to be provided to a minimum of three states in the form of grants that support identification and treatment of maternal depression and other maternal mental health disorders. These funds would be used by states for training and information to health care providers including obstetrician-gynecologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, mental health care providers, and adult primary care clinicians on screening, treatment, follow-up, and community referrals for perinatal depression. This may include psychiatric consultations, the use of telehealth technologies, and the formation of linkages of community resources.

The world of maternal mental health has been at similar crossroads in the past. In 2010, language of the MOTHERS Act was adopted into the Affordable Care Act and became law. The MOTHERS Act called for funding for improved screening, educational programs, and research for perinatal depression. However, the MOTHERS Act did not receive funding from Congress. Therefore, none of its provisions materialized. Given this history, it is important that we as a nation continue to voice our concerns for mothers suffering from perinatal depression.

May 17-18, 2017 the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health will be convening advocates for it’s 2nd annual Advocacy Day in Washington, DC to advocate for the funding of the 21st Century Cures Act. If you are interested in this lobby day, please look for updates on the website for the National Coalition of Maternal Mental Health: http://mmhcoalition.com/.

The passage of the 21st Century Cures Act is a landmark victory of maternal mental health and sends a clear message that we, as a nation, care about women suffering from perinatal depression. Despite this victory, there is no time to rest as we must continue to voice our support of moms.

More About the The 21st Century Cures Act

The Act is 996 pages long and contains many other mental health provisions in addition to addressing maternal depression.  Highlights include measures to strengthen equal insurance coverage for mental and physical health, programs to support early intervention for psychosis, and funding to address the opioid epidemic.  This act also includes additional provisions not related to mental health, such as NIH funding to support precision medicine, FDA funding to expedite the availability of new treatments, and increased loan repayments for research scientists.