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Mental Health Update

Posted in:
January 21, 2022
Mental Health Update

01/21/2022 – Senator Brouk and Assemblymembers Solages, Gonzalez-Rojas and Clark introduce a Series of Bill to Support Maternal Mental Health

Yesterday, Senator Samra Brouk, joined by Assemblymembers Michaelle Solages, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Sarah Clark held a press conference highlighting the importance of maternal mental health. MHANYS Director of Family Engagement, Deb Faust spoke passionately at the press conference about maternal mental health and the impact of COVID when she said, “The birth of a child is the most life changing event a parent will experience but similar to all major life events fear and anxiety are present, and the uncertainty during the pandemic has heightened stress and is most definitely another risk factor for experiencing postpartum.” Mary Bartlett, Board Chair of NAMI-NYS, also spoke and shared her moving personal story.The legislators spoke about three different bills that are all aimed at educating the public about resources and public awareness for maternal mental health; legislation to create an advisory council dedicated to implementing best practices for maternal mental health and availability of depression screening during prenatal, postnatal and pediatric visits. These three pieces of legislation are geared to addressing problems of health equity regarding maternal mental health in vulnerable at-risk populations.  MHANYS strongly support these initiatives—we believe that good mental health practices and discussions around accessibility and equity should all be an integral part of an individual’s lifespan.

The Press Release is listed below.

January 20, 2022

*Media contact:*Frank Sainato
585-223-1800 (office)
518-225-4203 (mobile)

Senator Brouk, Assembly Colleagues Announce Legislative Package to Address Maternal Mental Health Needs of New Yorkers

Three new bills will make depression screenings available during prenatal, postnatal and pediatric visits; address inadequacies of  *existing depression screening tools; and establish a working group to address underdiagnosis in vulnerable populations

ALBANY, NY – Senator Samra G. Brouk today announced the introduction of a package of three new bills in the Senate to address the maternal mental health needs of New Yorkers who give birth and to address the problems of
underdiagnosis and undertreatment in vulnerable, at-risk populations, particularly Black and Brown women. Senator Brouk serves as the Chair of the Senate Mental Health Committee and is a member of the Senate Health

Maternal mental health conditions are the most common complication in pregnancy and childbirth, affecting one in five women. The risks are significantly higher for new mothers of color; notably, while Black women are twice as likely to experience many of these conditions, they are half as likely to seek help. Maternal mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar illness and substance use disorders, can create bonding issues between a birthing parent and her baby, contribute to sleep and feeding problems, and cause mental, emotional, developmental and verbal complications in children.

“The most common complication in pregnancy is maternal mental health conditions, and this crisis is especially dire for Black women—our maternal mental health conditions are largely underreported and symptoms often go unaddressed,” said Senator Samra G. Brouk. “Untreated maternal depression can be deadly and is causing untold suffering for too many families. We must work to address the disparity in mental health care for Black birthing people and provide more culturally responsive and respectful care.”

Senate Bill 7865 requires maternal health care providers providing pre- and postnatal care or pediatric care to invite the mother to fill out a questionnaire to detect maternal depression and other mood disorders. The bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Michaëlle Solages, who serves as Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus.

Maternal depression screenings will be offered:
● at the time of prenatal care
● at the time of a well-child checkup prior to the infant’s first birthday
● At the time of a mother’s follow up visit to their OB/GYN
This bill also recommends that maternal health care providers make the best efforts possible to contact the person who gave birth in within 21 days from the date of delivery and utilize industry practices to detect maternal

Senate Bill 7753 requires the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Department of Health to *conduct a study on the inadequacies of existing postpartum depression screening tools* in an effort to address the under-diagnosis and treatment of women in vulnerable, at-risk populations, particularly Black women. The bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas.

This study will:
● Examine what additional questions or tools could be implemented to
minimize disparities found within the current screening protocols.
● Identify racial disparities within existing protocols and screening
measures for postpartum depression and mood disorders
● Identify ways to reduce or eliminate transgender and non-binary and
racial and ethnic health care discrimination and disparities that
contribute to disparities within current postpartum depression screening

Senate Bill 7752 directs OMH to create a Maternal Mental Health Workgroup to study and issue recommendations related to the diagnosis and treatment of maternal mental health and perinatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. The bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblymember Sarah Clark.

Among other tasks, the workgroup shall:
● Identify vulnerable populations and risk factors in the state for
maternal mental health disorders that may occur during pregnancy and
through the first postpartum year;
● Identify and recommend effective, culturally competent, and accessible
prevention screening and identification and treatment strategies, including
public education and workplace awareness, provider education and training,
and social support services;
● Identify and recommend evidence-based practices for health care providers
and public health systems;
● Make recommendations on legislation, policy initiatives, funding
requirements and budgetary priorities to address maternal mental health
needs in the state.

Assemblywoman Michaëlle Solages, Member of the Assembly Health Committee said: “Tragic outcomes that stem from maternal depression for both the mother and the child are fully preventable, if detected. That is why I am
happy to introduce this piece of legislation alongside Senator Brouk which will require maternal care providers to offer maternal depression screenings during pre and postnatal care. Only around half of mothers are
screened for maternal depression – and far fewer are screened using standardized assessment tools. It is vital that mothers are screened for depression using validated assessments so that they can be connected with
the care they need, to ensure the health and safety of themselves and their child.”

Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, Member of the Assembly Health Committee said:* “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed so many of the inequities in our public health and mental health delivery system. Now more than ever, we understand that mental health matters but there is a serious mental health crisis occurring for Black and Brown mothers and people who give birth. It is exacerbated by systemic racism and sexism and we must
address it if we want a healthier New York State. It is a deep injustice that Black and Brown women are more likely to experience postpartum depression compared to white women and white people who give birth and as a
Latina and a health advocate, I am committed to ending these disparities. I’m proud to carry legislation with Senator Brouk, which will help us to study the inadequacies of maternal mental health screening tools for Black
and Brown women and I ask my colleagues in the legislature to support the bill and help us pass it into law.”

Assemblywoman Sarah Clark, Member of the Assembly Mental Health Committee said: “Many mental health needs have gone unmet for far too long and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue in our community. Maternal mental health, especially Black maternal health and other underrepresented communities is no exception and requires our immediate attention. We must address the critical mental health needs of pregnant women and mothers across our state. As a mom of three having faced my own trauma during pregnancy and childbirth, I understand the unique challenges we face, many of which are not presently met by the healthcare system. I am proud to  sponsor this legislation to better support pregnant women and postpartum mothers through the establishment of a maternal mental health workgroup. Using real data we can find common sense solutions to achieve better health outcomes. Thank you, Senator Samra Brouk for your leadership on this legislation, and your ongoing commitment to addressing the mental health needs for all New Yorkers.”

Glenn Liebman, CEO of Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.: “MHANYS thanks Senator Brouk and Assemblymember Solages for introducing a series of bills related to maternal mental health and postpartum depression. At MHANYS, we believe strongly in a lifetime of positive mental health starting during pregnancy and child birth. These initiatives will help create greater information regarding maternal depression screenings, public education and other resources related to maternal mental health and postpartum depression. Most importantly this legislation also looks at issues of health disparities and cultural competence—a significant concern that needs attention and support throughout the lifespan.”

Mary Bartlett, President of National Alliance on Mental Illness-New York State: “NAMI-NYS is grateful to Senator Brouk for shedding light on the critical and often misunderstood issues surrounding maternal mental health. As a mother who has twice experienced post-partum depression, I know both how debilitating post-partum depression can be as well as how challenging it is to talk about these issues and seek help to address them. I am proud to stand beside Senator Brouk and advocate for the four legislative measures that she is introducing which will create broader understanding, address disparities in order to increase maternal mental health screenings and normalize the conversations about maternal mental health. I urge the legislature to pass these bills so none of New York’s mothers will have to face these issues in shame and silence.”

Kristen Garzone, Founder of The Believe KNT Foundation, Inc.: “Maternal Mental Health has been pushed under the rug for far too long. Mothers need action and help. I suffered from postpartum depression for years with no idea how much help I truly needed. Senator Brouk’s package of new Maternal Mental Health legislation is just what this state needs right now.”

According to the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, the signs and symptoms of maternal depression are: feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless; lacking motivation, concentration, or energy; loss of interest or please in activities; and feelings of anger, guilt, irritability, rage or regret. The signs and symptoms of *maternal anxiety* are: feeling easily stressed, worried or overwhelmed; being hypervigilant with the baby; having scary, intrusive, or racing thoughts; feeling keyed up, on edge, restless or panicked.


New York State Senator Samra Brouk (pronounced Sah-mra Brew-k) represents the incredibly diverse 55th Senate District, stretching from the southern shores of Lake Ontario, through Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts, and
south to Finger Lakes wine country. It includes Victor, East Bloomfield, West Bloomfield, Richmond, Bristol, South Bristol, Canadice, and Naples in Ontario County and Rush, Mendon, Pittsford, Perinton, Penfield, East
Rochester, and Irondequoit, plus the east side of the City of Rochester in Monroe County. Senator Brouk serves as the Chair of the Mental Health Committee and sits on Health, Education, Elections, Women’s Issues, Aging,
and Alcoholism and Substance Abuse committees.