Federal Task Force Releases National Strategy to Improve Maternal Mental Health Care, Includes Medicaid Policies

This week the Task Force on Maternal Mental Health released a national strategy to improve maternal health care and an accompanying report to Congress. The federal interagency task force was created under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 for purposes of identifying, evaluating, and making recommendations to coordinate and improve federal activities related to addressing maternal mental health conditions.

The national strategy consists of five pillars under which priorities and recommendations are organized:

  1. Build a National Infrastructure That Prioritizes Perinatal Mental Health and Well-Being
  2. Make Care and Services Accessible, Affordable, and Equitable
  3. Use Data and Research to Improve Outcomes and Accountability
  4. Promote Prevention and Engage, Education, and Partner with Communities
  5. Lift Up Lived Experience

As highlighted in our report on State Medicaid Opportunities to Support Mental Health of Mothers and Babies During the 12-Month Postpartum Period, Medicaid plays a timely and vital role in meeting the mental health needs of pregnant and postpartum individual as the predominant payer of U.S. births and coverage source for low-income infants. Notably, national birth data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than two-thirds (64%) of Black mothers and more than half (58%) of Hispanic mothers had Medicaid coverage reported on birth certificates in 2021. Accordingly, the program’s role and reach is critical to both financing care and spurring needed health systems changes – changes that are woefully needed as demonstrated by recent Maternal Mental Health State Report Cards finding that 29 states earned Ds and Fs in 2024.

The Task Force’s national strategy and report recognize the important role Medicaid plays in meeting maternal mental health needs with multiple recommendations to Congress and/or federal agencies focused on Medicaid policies, including:

  • Requiring all states, DC and the territories to expand Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage from 60 days to 12 months postpartum, as well as providing information on how to use these benefits to providers, patients, and communities.
  • Requiring and/or encouraging all states, DC and the territories to provide Medicaid coverage of nonclinical support staff members, such as community health workers, doulas, health navigators, peer support specialists, lactation consultants, and gender-based counselors/specialists.
  • Requiring all states, DC and the territories to provide Medicaid coverage for dyadic family mental health and substance use disorder services and ensure that providers can bill for services provided to both the mother and the baby during the same visit.
  • Ensuring compliance with the SUPPORT Act requirement that state Medicaid programs cover all FDA-approved forms of medication for the treatment of opioid use disorders and related counseling and therapy.
  • Incentivizing states to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates and/or providing incentive payments that could supplement current rates for maternity and/or mental health and substance use disorder care.
  • Encouraging states to adopt recent Medicaid guidance on interprofessional consultation.
  • Requiring states to report on the entire Medicaid Adult Cores Set (rather than just the behavioral health measures and the Child Core Set).
  • Ensuring Medicaid coverage of evidence-based best practices and programs that promote person-centered, culturally relevant, and community-level detection and prevention of perinatal mental health conditions and substance use disorders.

The national strategy is deemed a living document by its creators and will be updated regularly until the task force sunsets in 2027. Updates will include a report that details steps for implementation of the recommendations as well as a resource for governors diving deeper into state policy opportunities.

For the full list of recommendations along with best practices and other resources to support maternal mental health and substance use disorders, check out the national strategy and corresponding report to Congress. In addition, to see where your state lands on maternal mental health care – including providers and programs, screening and screening reimbursement, and insurance coverage and treatment – check out your state’s 2024 Maternal Mental Health State Report Card.

Anne Dwyer is an Associate Research Professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families.