Bill of the Week: Combating Postpartum Depression

Between 2011 and 2012, nearly 200 Texas mothers died within a year of giving birth

Bill of the Week: Combating Postpartum Depression

HB 2604, Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston

HB 2466, Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston

HB 2135, Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston

Despite Texas' alarming rise in maternal mortality rates, state leadership has failed to prioritize the issue this legislative session. The rate of mothers dying after giving birth doubled within a two-year period to "levels not seen in other U.S. states," reported one study. The state health department's Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force also showed a significant recent spike in maternal deaths; and reported that mental health, suicide, and substance abuse played key influences – specifically drug overdose and depression. You would think the glaring problem would have landed on the legislative agenda, but leadership has instead opted to place their time and energy into further restricting basic women's health care.

Taking it on as a priority, a trio of bipartisan House lawmakers filed bills to improve the issue. Jessica Farrar's HB 2604 requires the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to create a five-year strategic plan to bolster access for postpartum depression screenings, referral, treatment, and support services. Sarah Davis' HB 2466 would grant mothers postpartum depression screenings and referrals during their child's pediatrician visits, under Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. And Garnet Coleman's HB 2135 would provide mothers with screenings and treatment coverage for up to a year after birth. The House Public Health Committee heard the bills in early April, but left them pending in committee.

The hearing dovetailed with the release of a new report by the nonpartisan Texans Care for Children, which found that one in six Texas women suffer from postpartum depression; nearly half of all cases go undetected and undiagnosed; and implicated children are more likely to experience developmental delays and depression as well. A tearful Donna Kreuzer with the Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas pleaded with committee members to ensure women get the help they need. She shared the story of her daughter, Kristi, who concealed her depression for two months due to stigma, and wound up ending her life. "I don't want that to happen to anybody else," said Kreuzer. "Each of you please realize that postpartum depression is real – it's not just that you have children and things are different so you're tired and not getting sleep. It needs to be addressed as quickly as possible."

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