Friday, March 17, 2023

Bill to address postpartum depression and other maternal mental-health problems has passed and awaits the governor's action

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

A bill to ensure greater access to information and resources for mental-health care before and after the birth of a child passed without dissent in both houses of the General Assembly and has gone to Gov. Andy Beshear.

Sen. Shelley Funke Frommeyer
"Kentucky, sadly, has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the country," the bill's sponsor, Sen. Shelley Funke Frommeyer, R-Alexandria, told the Senate Families & Children Committee in February.  "And we're looking to get upstream of that. We really want to work towards a solution." 

Senate Bill 135 calls on the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to create written information on perinatal mental-health disorders, including postpartum depression, and make it available on its website. It also requires the cabinet to provide access to online clinical assessment tools to help providers detect the symptoms of perinatal mental-health disorders. 

The cabinet is also charged with creating a panel of maternal- and infant-health experts to explore the issue of perinatal mental-health disorders, including prevention, treatment and gaps in service.  The panel is required to report its findings to the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services and the Advisory Council for Medicaid Services on or before Nov. 1 of each year. 

"This bill is simple, but the impact will be wide reaching and could mean the difference between life and death for some Kentucky mothers," said Rep. Stephanie Dietz, R-Edgewood, who carried the bill in the House.

Amendment for pediatric recovery centers

A House floor amendment that included language from House Bill 436 was added to the bill and agreed to in the Senate. It directs the cabinet to submit a state plan amendment application by Nov. 1, 2023 to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide medical assistance "to the fullest extent permitted under federal law" for inpatient and outpatient services provided by a residential pediatric recovery center. 

Rep. Matt Lockett, R-Nicholasville, sponsor of HB 436 and the amendment, told the House that there is a great need for these centers because they care for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, noting that Kentucky has 15 babies born with NAS per 1,000 births. 

"These centers provide a unique non-hospital holistic approach that saves taxpayer dollars by avoiding expensive hospital stays and unnecessary foster care placements," said "They provide high quality inpatient medical care in a home like setting for babies born exposed to addictive substances."

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