– Legislation sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) that would assist new mothers in Pennsylvania who are struggling with postpartum depression and their infants was the focus of a panel discussion she hosted at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton on Thursday.
Under House Bill 200
, which Toohil reintroduced in January, mothers at high risk for postpartum depression and their infant who are referred by a physician, health care provider or parent would be automatically eligible for assessment and tracking by Pennsylvania’s Early Intervention programs, and if needed, services. These programs exist in every county in the Commonwealth.
“Research by the American Psychological Association has shown that 15 percent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression,” explained Toohil. “In Pennsylvania, this means that about 21,000 babies and their mothers are affected annually by this illness. My bill would simply add postpartum depression as an at-risk category for early intervention programs under state law.”
“House Bill 200 is just good policy,” said United Way of Wyoming Valley President Bill Jones. “We know that if a baby is born to a mom who has significant health issues of any sort that child might be at risk from day one, and that’s something that can be prevented.”
Panelists included Dr. Grant Greenberg, chair of Lehigh Valley Health Network Department of Family Medicine, and Dr. Jill Snyder, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Lehigh Valley Physician Group-Hazleton. Both doctors have treated women with postpartum depression.
“Depression is a real disease. It has a stigma and it’s very common,” said Greenberg. “I think that 15 percent number is quite a bit higher. Those are the woman who are diagnosed. Our patients aren’t necessarily going to volunteer that information, if we don’t ask the right questions.”
“We treat a mother for six months, and then re-evaluate,” Snyder said. “I tell them – this is not forever. We will get through this.”
At a state House Appropriations Committee budget hearing in March, Pennsylvania Secretary of Human Services Ted Dallas indicated his support for the legislation, which, according to a department estimate, would cost less than $1 million annually to implement.
“Babies are a very vulnerable population. They depend upon us and on their mothers,” said Greenberg. “So the health of the mother is really essential for the health of that baby. This is wonderful legislation and I’m really glad to be supporting it.”
Toohil urged those in attendance, which included representatives from organizations that deal with mothers and children, to help spread the word about the importance of passing House Bill 200.
“The squeaky wheel always gets the oil, it seems,” Toohil told the audience. “So, the louder we can be on this piece of legislation, the better.”
The bill, which currently has more than 35 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, has been referred to the House Human Services Committee for consideration. A companion bill has been reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-46).
Toohil was the prime sponsor of a similar measure during the 2015-16 session that stalled in committee.
A video of the panel discussion has been posted on Toohil’s website, RepToohil.com
More information is available by following the #StrongMomStrongBaby campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office