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Texas losing $2.2B by not treating mothers' mental health, report says

Nicole Villalpando, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in Health & Fitness

• Adding more access to group-based prenatal care and pediatric care programs in addition to individual prenatal and well-check medical visits.

• Developing health care and mental health services that have input from women of color and meet their needs in a culturally responsive manner.

"The hope is that policymakers will read it and take the results to heart," Margiotta said.

Rodríguez hopes the report will speak to those who care about women and children's health as well as those who care about the effect untreated mental health conditions have on the workplace because of absenteeism or dropping out of the workforce.

"We think it's important for everyone to weigh in on improving access to treatment," Rodríguez said, including employers in picking their employee health plans.

"There are definitely solutions," said Adriana Kohler, policy director at Texans Care for Children. "This report shows the cost of failing to address postpartum depression, failing to treat these issues. To reduce costs, the legislature and stakeholders can give more access to treatment and screenings."

 

For obstetricians, the study puts a dollar figure around what they have been seeing in practice.

"The study points to a relatively simple solution: Hey, let's treat prenatal mood disorders, and you will save a ton of money," said Dr. Kimberly Carter, an obstetrician-gynecologist at UT Health Austin and Ascension Seton. "Who can't get on board with that?"

Carter has seen an increased focus on a mother's mental health both before birth and after. Having pediatricians screen for it once the baby is born and having gynecologists do mental health screenings in each trimester and during the post-birth visit have improved care, but once a physician identifies a woman who needs mental health care, doctors often run into a lack of mental health providers, especially those who will take Medicaid or insurance, Carter said.

The report, Rodríguez said, is "the invitation for everyone that is in a position to have an impact. What is theirs to do?"

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