|Dr. Dorlen is instrumental in creating
the “Mother’s Law," which is
law in the nation to require health care professionals to screen
mothers for postpartum depression (PPD). Becoming
effective in New Jersey on October 10,
2006, screening for postpartum depression is no longer an
option. Physicians, nurse midwives, and other licensed
health care professionals are required to provide new mothers,
fathers, and their families with education and referral
information about PPD at prenatal and postnatal screenings.
In the following except from her report
to the American Psychological Association's CAPP Committee, Dr.
Dorlen tells about this New Jersey law, which is serving as a
model for proposed national legislation.
Postpartum depression screening
becomes law in the State of New Jersey
New Jersey has passed a first-of-its-kind law in the nation
to require health care professionals to screen mothers for
postpartum depression (PPD).
January, 2005, when Richard Codey became the 53rd
Governor of New Jersey, he convened a Task Force on Postpartum
Depression. The motivational impetus was his wife, Mary Jo Codey,
who had experienced a devastating postpartum depression shortly
after the birth of their first child in 1984. The mission of the
Governor’s Task Force was to build public awareness and offer
resources for women, their families, and health care
professionals. The targeted goals were to educate the public
that: (1) PPD, is fairly common affecting at least 1 in 8 new
mothers; (2) that it is a psychological disorder that may be
experienced days, weeks, even months after delivery; (3) that
psychological, biochemical, and hormonal factors contribute to
the disorder; (4) that it is ‘diagnosable and treatable’; (5)
that maternal depression affects the well being and mental
health of siblings and families in general; and (6) that medical
health care professionals, mental health professionals, and the
general public need to better understand this form of mental
illness and offer prompt access to treatment to those in need.
Additionally, it was deemed vitally important that uninsured and
under-insured new mothers have free mental health screening and
treatment if they suffer from the disorder. (Source: Medical
News Today, December 10, 2006, www.medicalnewstoday.com).
appointed to serve on the Governor’s Task force and became Chair
of the Consumer Education Committee. Two other committees:
Professional Education and Screening were also created. Alexis
E. Menken, Ph.D., a Montclair, New Jersey psychologist
specializing in maternal health, served on the Professional
Education Committee, and Lorryn Wahler, Executive Director of
the New Jersey Psychological Association, participated on the
Consumer Education Committee. The end product of the Governor’s
Task Force was the creation of informational patient-educational
materials; web-based information; hotline numbers; referral
resources; brochures and graphics to health care providers,
clinics and hospitals; and a consumer brochure describing
postpartum depression symptoms and treatment options. Materials
have been distributed to hospitals and physician offices, mental
health professional offices, public forums including libraries,
pharmacies, supermarkets, children’s stores, schools and daycare
centers; mother’s groups; and retail outlets where mothers and
families go. The website, containing a short informational video
with continual-loop feeding can be used in physicians’ or
psychologists’ offices, and features women representing the
multi-cultural and diverse nature of the New Jersey population.
In July, 2005
Mary Jo Codey launched New Jersey’s statewide “Speak Up When
You’re Down” consumer education campaign. The accompanying
brochure has been translated in Spanish and is in the process of
being translated in Arabic, two South Asian languages,
Bangladesh, French Creole, and Portuguese. The initiative has
been receiving national attention and replication. Taking its
cue from New Jersey, Washington State is the first to adopt the
“Speak Up When You’re Down” campaign several months ago.
On October 10th
2006, what is called the “Mother’s Law” in NJ went into effect.
Screening for postpartum depression in NJ is no longer an
option. Physicians, nurse midwives, and other licensed health
care professionals are required to provide new mothers, fathers,
and their families with education and referral information about
PPD at prenatal and postnatal screenings. Protocols that will
serve as guidelines for PPD screening and referral are currently
under development by the Task Force.
This unique NJ
law has made its way to the floor of the U.S. Senate. Hoping to
take this legislation nationwide, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ,
and Sen. Richard Durbin D-Ill. introduced legislation that would
increase education and access to screenings for new mothers and
generate postpartum depression research. This legislation also
proposes grants to health care providers who deliver care to
women diagnosed with postpartum depression.