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Florida Hospital Association Issues Statewide Call-to-Action to Address Maternal Mental Health

Florida - Wednesday May 22, 2024: The Florida Hospital Association (FHA)’s member hospitals remain committed to and focused on the Association’s urgent Call to Action to improve maternal health outcomes. One of the priority areas for Florida hospitals is increasing awareness of the critical maternal mental health care needs of the state’s expectant and new mothers, aiming to highlight practical strategies hospitals and health care professionals can implement to reduce mortality rates statewide.

As part of this effort, FHA hosted an "FHA Maternal Call to Action: Addressing Maternal Mental Health" webinar on Thursday, May 9, in observance of Maternal Mental Health Week, May 6-12, 2024, with more than 80 physicians, nurses, behavioral health care providers and other hospital professionals in attendance. The webinar featured Florida’s leading experts in maternal mental health who shared data about the relationship between maternal mental health and maternal mortality, resources available to support pregnant and postpartum women’s mental health needs and strategies for hospitals to adopt to ensure that maternity patients are screened and referred to care.

According to data provided by the American Hospital Association, one in five women experience a perinatal mental health condition such as depression and anxiety, and over 50% are left untreated – further impacting mother and child. One in eight women have symptoms of postpartum depression. Mental health conditions account for 9% of pregnancy-related deaths and suicide accounts for 20% of postpartum deaths.

"Behavioral health care is a critical lifeline for expectant and postpartum mothers, offering vital resources during an intensely vulnerable period. Florida hospitals are working together to support efforts to implement key strategies and best practices to support expectant and postpartum moms with timely access to effective mental health services," said Mary C. Mayhew, president and CEO of FHA. "FHA is dedicated to continuing to engage hospitals and educate health care providers on best practices to safeguard the lives of Florida mothers and their families."

Dr. Cole Greves, MD, Chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 12th District, which includes Florida, reviewed the available data on maternal mortality rates and the various factors that can lead to maternal deaths.

“Mental health plays an important role in nearly all aspects of obstetric care. Challenges to mental health and wellness are often disproportionately represented in those cases that result in maternal death…I think without the provision of adequate mental health care resources, we would see significantly higher rates of maternal mortality,” said Dr. Greves. “My opinion – even a single mother’s life lost is one too many.”

Dr. Heather Flynn, PhD, Director of the FSU Center for Behavioral Health Integration and Program Director for Florida BH IMPACT (Improving Maternal and Pediatric Access, Care and Treatment for Behavioral Health), highlighted the organization’s efforts to improve maternal and pediatric access to care and treatment and shared an overview of the IMPACT program’s directory, which offers health care providers and the general public resources to address behavioral health issues.

“The biggest risk factor for perinatal depression, which is a history of depression – a lifetime history of depression. You see, about 32% of women have a history of depression. So right there, that's a group to target for closer monitoring for worsening mental health and all the comorbidities,” said Dr. Flynn. “Obstetrician provider to behavioral health to psychiatrist provider – doctor to doctor consultation – has been shown to drastically improve the capacity of obstetricians to treat not just depression but anxiety, bipolar and substance abuse in all communities.”

Lori Shea, MBA, BSN, RNC-OB, C-ONQS, FACHE, Associate Vice President of Lakeland Regional Health (LRH), detailed the variety of protocols, community partnerships and assessments that Lakeland Regional Hospital has implemented to treat and support its maternal patients and care for their babies.

“Florida has a robust program to support hospitals and improve maternal outcomes through USF’s Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative. When it comes to behavioral health, Lakeland Regional has implemented a hospital-wide assessment not only for our birthing persons, but across the hospital,” said Lori Shea. “We have a team of Psychiatrists available seven days a week and Nurse Practitioners seven days a week, including nights, to be able to act on these assessments and respond to patients with Behavioral Health (BH) concerns. The BH team above has availability for quick consults for at-risk patients, substance use disorder in our maternity patients, as well as any psychosis, depression or BH concerns in the Medical Center. LRH has partnerships with community BH providers and has integrated their peer recovery specialists on-site. If there are any at-risk birthing persons identified, they certainly will have the opportunity to talk with them and then get them connected into community resources to help improve the outcomes of mom and baby.”

FHA remains committed to sharing valuable insights on maternal mental health care across all Florida community hospitals and health care systems to bolster timely and effective quality care in the Sunshine State. As hospitals across Florida continue to incorporate timely screenings, diversify their workforce, and train perinatal nurses and providers with the knowledge and skills to support mothers, we can effectively reduce maternal deaths.

The "FHA Maternal Call to Action: Addressing Maternal Mental Health" webinar is the eighth installment in FHA's Preventing Maternal Mortality Call to Action Series. Recordings of previous webinars on maternal mortality are available here.

For more information about FHA, visit