How You Can Advocate for Maternal Mental Health Care

Date Posted

October 20, 2020



Families for Depression Awareness asked Joy Burkhard, MBA, Founder and Executive Director of 2020 Mom, to update us on maternal mental health care since her post on Care for Your Mind in 2016. 2020 Mom is a nonprofit social change organization aggressively working to close gaps in maternal mental health through education, awareness and advocacy.

Q: Tell us about your nonprofit organization, 2020 Mom.

2020 Mom is voicing a national call to action to solve what some have called one of the biggest public health concerns of our time: the silent maternal mental health crisis that impacts up to 20% of expecting and new moms. 2020 Mom serves as a catalyst for policy and health delivery systems change by building nationwide partnerships, pursuing advocacy opportunities, and promoting solutions for the health delivery system.

Q: How has 2020 Mom advanced change in the area of maternal mental health?

In 2015, with funding from two private foundations, 2020 Mom and its partners convened a multi-stakeholder task force which ran for 18 months, combed through research, and heard from experts around the U.S. The framework for change noted important national and state gaps in maternal mental health, the role that trade associations, government and others must play to close them.  The detailed paper and action plan, inclusive of California data, as well as national research, was issued in 2017 and has propelled change across the U.S.

2020 Mom received a second grant to distribute the paper, request written responses from key stakeholders named in the paper, and to track progress.  A follow up report on progress was issued in late 2019, highlighting key progress including updates on position statements from national bodies like the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Medical Association; development of a HEDIS measure to monitor state and national maternal depression screening rates, and more.

With the shut down and change of focus of two of the four founding organizations, 2020 Mom decided it was time to expand the focus and membership of the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health to include the wider maternity care movement, recognizing collectively we could be even more powerful, together.

In 2019, 2020 Mom invited nonprofit partners working on supporting safe and supported birth and early parenting to form the “Mom Congress,” coalition which is referred to as a movement and moments. Mom Congress has held a series of virtual and in person events for mothers to become empowered, to engage in federal legislative policy change.

Mom Congress also produced two congressional briefings, “Saving and Supporting Moms” in 2019 and “Motherhood on the Brink -COVID and the Childcare Crisis” in 2020.  The coalition was also the first to issue a “Momnibus” documenting these federal policy it endorsed, supportive of mothers; specifically focused on improving birth safety and reduce maternal mortality, address maternal mental health, and providing national paid family leave.

As noted in the 2016 article, 2020 Mom, through the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health, drove advocacy for the “Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act of 2015.”  The bill was passed through the 21st Century Cares Act, signed into law in December 2016.

Congress appropriated the full $5 million per year for up to 5 years to implement the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act. In November 2018, the federal government awarded grants to Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont to lay the groundwork for telepsychiatry consultation.

In 2019, we advocated for the Federal Health and Human Services agency (HHS) to receive funding to document what each federal agency has been doing as well as their needs to propel further change in maternal mental health.  In late December 2019, the federal budget was signed by President Trump and included funding for a Maternal Mental Health Interagency Report which was to report to Congress in June 2020. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed this effort and we expect the report to be issued in the coming months.

Q: Now that we are in 2020, what do we do about maternal mental health moving forward?

Although we have made progress, there is still more to be done, now more than ever. We are expecting a second wave of a COVID mental health crisis and our fragmented and overwhelmed mental health delivery system needs infusion and redesign NOW.

To that end 2020 Mom is aggressively:

  • distributing the results of our study on use of certified peers in maternal mental health to augment provider shortages, meet moms where they are, and provide paid career pathways for mothers.
  • bringing training and tools to the maternal mental health field so together we can tackle prevention of maternal suicide.  2020 Mom is doing this through our partnerships with the CDC, Zero Suicide, the Suicide lifeline and more.

Q: How can more people get involved in this cause?

National for profit partners, nonprofit organizations, and individuals can all join the Mom Congress movement and support federal policy. Also, there is only so much we can expect from the federal government, so it’s essential that you bring your maternal mental health story and your advocacy for improving mothers’ mental health care to officials in your state and community too. Those who become Ambassadors are given tools and support to effectuate change.

Q: What is your takeaway message for our audience?

Your participation matters! The moms in our lives – both current and future – are counting on us to create their support system. Whether you’re a health care provider, a person with lived experience, or simply a concerned citizen, we need YOU to join us in advocating for better systems and better care.

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