What Would You Share with Congress?

By Joy Burkhard, MBA
Founder and Director of 2020 Mom

Washington DC

This week, I head to Washington DC to meet with members of Congress about maternity care.

I will be joined by several colleagues from non-profit organizations, including leaders from groups like Every Mother Counts, The Preeclampsia Foundation, Improving Birth and March for Moms. With more women ever serving in congress, it’s a particularly exciting time to address women’s health and maternity issues.

We have been asked to share what we believe should be the highest priorities in improving maternity care. This includes maternal mental health.

If I were in position to write two federal laws, this is what I’d write. I’d like to hear your thoughts about these ideas and any ideas you have – using the comment feature below.

  1. Require the Surgeon General to form a “coordinating committee” of federal agencies, who each play a role in addressing maternal mental health care and issue a call to action, similar to the call to action issued surrounding breastfeeding. The Surgeon General on behalf of the committee shall also report back to Congress the role that each agency can take to address gaps in screening, detection and delivery of care. These agencies shall include, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), the Maternal Child Health Bureau of HRSA, The Centers for Medicaid/Medicare Services (CMS), and the Office of Women’s Health.

  2. Require the CMS (who oversees hospitals who receive medicaid or medicare payments), to direct hospitals to track maternal deaths and near deaths through hospital quality committees who shall make quality improvements to nursing and staff protocol and practices.

P.S. Also, some of you have asked about how the state maternal mortality review board legislation signed before the holidays will impact maternal mental health.

Congresswoman Jamie Hererra Beutler, lead author (sponsor) of the house bill and co-chair of the congressional maternity caucus.

Congresswoman Jamie Hererra Beutler, lead author (sponsor) of the house bill and co-chair of the congressional maternity caucus.

The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act (also known as the #Act2SaveMoms) was signed by the president just before the government shut down. This legislation will support states setting up or improving existing maternal mortality review committees to review cases, including deaths by suicide, to determine which deaths could have been prevented and how. More U.S. mothers die surrounding childbirth than mothers in any other industrialized nation and the number has been rising, not decreasing. This is important though hospitals should also be monitoring their own deaths and taking more immediate action.

We thank The Preeclampsia Foundation and the American College of Obstetric and Gynecology, who led the lobbying efforts and the many other maternal child health partners also raised their voices. To learn more about whether your state has a maternal mortality review committee, click here.

Finally, this was Legislation supported by 2020 Mom and our Hill Day attendees. We head to the hill again this year and if you love health policy work like I do (or are curious and want to learn more), please consider joining us. You can add your name to the interest list here.