Maternal Mental Health Hotline, Postpartum Medicaid Extension Approvals Show Support for New Moms

New moms experiencing mental health challenges now have access to a free, confidential 24-hour hotline to help them talk through their challenges with counselors trained to offer maternal mental health support, Biden Administration officials announced earlier this month.

The new maternal mental health hotline, accessible for free by call or text to 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS, is live and operational and designed to offer support to pregnant and postpartum people who may need support for mental health challenges during and after pregnancy. Research shows that about one in eight women with a live birth experience symptoms of postpartum depression, and estimates of depressive symptoms are as high as 60 percent among low-income postpartum people.

Confidential counseling is available in multiple languages, and callers can receive brief interventions from trained counselors who will provide culturally appropriate and trauma-informed support, as well as referrals to both community-based and telehealth providers as needed. Callers also will receive evidence-based information and referrals to support groups and other community resources. The national hotline is a program of HRSA, and operated by Postpartum Support International.

CMS also signaled its ongoing support for extended postpartum coverage this week by approving coverage extensions in California, Florida, Kentucky, and Oregon, adding to the growing list of states approved to take up the American Rescue Plan’s Medicaid state plan option to receive federal matching funds for one year of postpartum coverage after the end of pregnancy.

California, Kentucky, and Oregon received state plan amendment approvals, while Florida was approved to extend postpartum coverage via a Section 1115 waiver. See this blog from my colleagues to learn more about the pros and cons of these different approaches.

CMS has also approved state plan amendments to extend 12 months of postpartum coverage in South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Michigan, as well as 1115 waiver approvals for at least some postpartum coverage in Missouri, Georgia, Illinois, and Virginia. So far, there are 33 states working on implementing extended postpartum coverage, and three more states with active legislation to extend coverage.

Importantly, while the Medicaid continuous coverage protections remain in effect due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, no one can be involuntarily disenrolled, including postpartum people whose pregnancy has ended. For more on the Medicaid coverage protections and COVID-19 public health emergency, see our CCF resource page on unwinding the public health emergency.

As so many have pointed out before, the nation has a long way to go towards addressing the country’s increasing and unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality, especially for Black women who die from pregnancy-related causes at a rate more than twice the national average. But these recent policy changes to support the physical and emotional wellbeing of new mothers and their babies mark progress towards creating a country where all families can thrive.

What should I do if I need help right away?

You don’t need a diagnosis to reach out for support. Reach out as soon as possible, and talk to supportive and informed counselors.

The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline provides 24/7, free, confidential support, resources, and referrals to any pregnant and postpartum mothers facing mental health challenges and their loved ones, via phone and text in English and Spanish. Call or text 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (1-833-943-5746).

Maggie Clark is a Program Director at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families.