"Moderate to severe depression or anxiety is not only unpleasant, not only potentially dangerous to the mother, it's also potentially harmful to the child," he said.
The Texas study follows a national one Mathematica did two years ago that found the cost of maternal mental health was $14 billion nationally, but that national study didn't include a breakdown by race and ethnicity.
Texas' numbers provided a chance for the researchers to see health inequities. Untreated maternal mental health conditions occurred in 18.2% of Black women, 12% of Hispanic women and 11.4% of non-Hispanic white women. The cost for each mother-child pair also was different by race and ethnicity. Black mother-child pairs had an average cost of $62,000 over the almost six years; Hispanic mother-child pairs and non-Hispanic white mother-child pairs both had an almost six-year cost of $43,000.
"If we do not segregate by race and ethnicity, you could underestimate the impact for communities," Rodríguez said. "This is an important feature of this work and a contribution that Texas is sharing with the rest of the nation."
Texans Care for Children is recommending policy changes to address the cost of untreated mental health and disparity.
• Extending a woman's access to Medicaid from 60 days after giving birth to 12 months. Many mental health conditions, substance abuse and suicide risks emerge more than 60 days after birth.
• Accepting federal funding at a 90% match to expand Medicaid.
• Fully funding Medicaid, CHIP, Healthy Texas Women and the Family Planning Program and provide the staff to enroll eligible women.
• Using a network that is already in use to connect pediatricians to psychiatrists for patient consultation over the phone and enable it to be used when doctors are treating moms with mental health symptoms.