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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the release of a national strategy today, with recommendations developed by the Task Force on Maternal Mental Health, a subcommittee of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Advisory Committee for Women’s Services, to address the urgent public health crisis of maternal mental health and substance use issues. The Report to Congress (PDF | 2.1 MB) and accompanying National Strategy to Improve Maternal Mental Health Care (PDF | 3.6 MB) are part of broader federal efforts to address women’s overall health, and maternal health in particular, across the nation, consistent with the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis (PDF | 913 KB) and the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research.

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income countries. Deaths from suicide, drug overdoses, and other causes related to mental health and substance use issues are the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S., accounting for more than 22% of those deaths. An estimated one in five individuals are impacted by mental health conditions – including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma-related disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and postpartum psychosis – and substance use disorders (SUD) during pregnancy and the postpartum period and disproportionately affect Black and American Indian/Alaska Native individuals and others in under-resourced communities.

“Addressing the maternal mental health crisis is a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. Many of these tragic deaths can be prevented by eliminating health disparities and understanding the impact of mental health during pregnancy and in the first months as a parent,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We want to address the challenges people are facing, decrease stigma associated with these challenges, and improve access to support both inside and outside of the health care system. I want to thank the task force for developing recommendations on how we can work to expand access to equitable treatment that will improve outcomes and help families thrive.”

“At HHS we are working every day to transform behavioral health. This critically includes providing support for maternal mental health,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm. “This report, and the accompanying National Strategy, will further our efforts to improve access to care – including the integration of perinatal behavioral health care across our health and social systems.”

The Task Force on Maternal Mental Health is co-chaired by Admiral Rachel Levine, M.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, which oversees the Office on Women’s Health, and Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of HHS’s SAMHSA.

The task force is a subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Women’s Services which is a federal advisory committee made up of more than 100 federal and nonfederal members, including experts in obstetrics and gynecology, maternal and child health, clinical and research, psychiatry, psychology, counseling, gender-based violence, strategic policy, community behavioral health, federal-community partnerships and those with lived experience.

“This announcement is the result of the Task Force on Maternal Mental Health’s efforts to support ways to address the nation’s maternal mental health crisis,” said Admiral Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health. “The effort this task force put forth in developing comprehensive recommendations on ways to address the maternal mental health crisis is important towards informing HHS’ strategy moving forward. We look forward to reviewing the recommendations proposed in National Strategy to Improve Maternal Mental Health Care to improve maternal mental health outcomes.”

“Untreated maternal mental health and substance use conditions can have negative and long-lasting effects on individuals and families; in the worst cases, these issues result in needless deaths,” said Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon. “Many of these deaths are preventable, and we are grateful for the task force’s recommendations included in this National Strategy to address these critical challenges.”

In the national strategy, the task force vision calls for a seamless integration of perinatal mental health and substance use care across medical, community, and social systems that increases equity and access, improves federal coordination, and elevates culturally relevant supports and trauma-informed approaches.

Building upon existing federal government efforts, the task force outlines a path to achieve the vision in the national strategy within a framework of five core pillars, each with supporting priorities and recommendations.

The five pillars of the national strategy focus on: building a national infrastructure that prioritizes perinatal mental health and well-being, with a focus on reducing disparities; making care and services accessible, affordable, and equitable; using data and research to improve outcomes and accountability; promoting prevention and engaging, educating, and partnering with communities; and lifting up the voices of people with lived experience.

The national strategy is a living document that will be regularly updated by the task force. The federal government will consider the strategy as it continues addressing the maternal mental health crisis.

The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline provides free, confidential, 24/7 mental health support for moms and their families before, during, and after pregnancy. Counselors are available in English and Spanish, and interpreters are available to support callers in 60 other languages. Call or text 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262).

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.

To learn how to get support for mental health, drug, and alcohol issues, visit FindSupport.gov. Anyone seeking treatment for mental health or substance use issues should call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) or visit findtreatment.samhsa.gov.

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Reporters with questions should send inquiries to media@samhsa.hhs.gov.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to lead public health and service delivery efforts that promote mental health, prevent substance misuse, and provide treatments and supports to foster recovery while ensuring equitable access and better outcomes.

Last Updated

Last Updated: 05/14/2024

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