MassHealth Will Start Covering Postpartum Depression Screenings Next Spring

The state Medicaid agency will reimburse healthcare providers for the tests.

As of spring 2016, Massachusetts’ Medicaid agency, MassHealth, will reimburse health care providers for postpartum depression screenings conducted on new mothers.

The announcement was made by Lt. Governor Karen Polito at a postpartum depression awareness event Monday. The legislation is meant to encourage new mothers to seek mental health care if necessary since, as of 2013 reporting, only half of the 9.3 percent of women suffering from post-birth depression in Massachusetts got help from a professional.

Postpartum depression screenings are typically short, straightforward surveys that assess new mothers’ overall mental health, and can cost up to $100. Basic as they are, studies have shown that as many as 60 percent of women who receive initial screenings go back for a follow-up, and 35 percent end up receiving treatment.

Marylou Sudders, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said MassHealth’s new policy could have a significant impact of both women’s and children’s health, according to CommonWealth Magazine:

“Postpartum depression affects as many as 1 in 5 women in the first three months after delivery and can often lead to poor mother-child bonding as well as impacting the social and cognitive development of the child,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders in a statement. “This important MassHealth change will improve the health and well-being of mothers and their children at a critical time in their development and growth.”

Massachusetts’ postpartum depression initiatives are not as wide-reaching as states like New Jersey, Illinois, and West Virginia, all of which require all new mothers to be screened post-delivery. Nonetheless, this is not the first effort the Commonwealth has made to improve women’s mental health care. Last year, officials launched the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project for Moms to improve quality of and access to postpartum care, and the volunteer organization Postpartum Support International of Massachusetts has been running since 1987.