Despite Some Improvements, 24 States Get D Grade in Maternal Mental Health

May 28, 2024
Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health, George Washington University say 34 states showed improvements in 2024

A nonprofit think tank called the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health has collaborated with the George Washington University to create a report card that scores each state's efforts to address maternal mental health.

In 2024, the U.S.’s national grade improved slightly from a D to a D+ as state grades inched upwards. Thirty-four state grades improved; three states earned Bs (an increase from 1 state in 2023) and five states earned failing grades (down from 15 states in 2023).

Maternal mental health disorders, like postpartum depression, affect roughly 600,000 (20%) of U.S. mothers a year. Though no women or families are immune, Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and other women of color are particularly vulnerable to disparities in rates and access to care. It is estimated that upwards of 50% of mothers are not diagnosed by a healthcare professional and that 75% of women never get the treatment they need.

“We’re seeing incremental improvements in state efforts to address maternal mental health, and improvements in the state-level data that is available,” said Caitlin Murphy, research scientist at the GWU Milken Institute School of Public Health, who supported the creation of the report cards, in a statement. “Yet grades are still dismally low: 24 states received a D grade and five states received failing grades. States should be commended for their hard work to address maternal mental health disparities, and we still have a long way to go,” she said.

The 2024 Maternal Mental Health State Report Cards includes 18 measures divided into three key domains
• Providers and Programs
• Screening Requirements and Reimbursement
• Insurance Coverage and Payment

Three new data sets were incorporated into the 2024 report card:

• Prenatal depression screening rates (as defined in the Healthcare Effectiveness and Data and Information Set, HEDIS)
• Postpartum depression screening rates (as defined in the Healthcare Effectiveness and Data and Information Set, HEDIS)
• Perinatal Quality Collaboratives prioritizing maternal mental health

“Maternal mental health is core to the health and wellbeing of women and families. Our report cards provide state government and advocacy leaders with a tool for identifying areas of opportunity and the ability to track annual progress,” said Joy Burkhard, executive director of the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health, in a statement.  “We are particularly hopeful about one of the new measures added this year, which tracks how often women are being screened for these disorders. Asking about symptoms is the first step toward diagnosis and treatment,” she said.

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