Blue Cross Launches Maternity Depression Program

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Maternity Depression

Motherhood is often characterized as a magical experience for women with only a fading reference to the "baby blues." However, according to the National Mental Health Association, in the first three months after childbirth, 14.5 percent of women may become withdrawn, unresponsive, or exhibit negative behavior toward their infant. Mothers experiencing these conflicting feelings may be suffering from Postpartum Depression (PPD) which once diagnosed can be treated. Blue Cross of California (Blue Cross) has launched a Maternity Depression Program that provides new moms depression screenings, education, and support to help them obtain behavioral health treatment during and post-pregnancy.

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The Maternity Depression Program is designed to provide information and screening tools to all Blue Cross members who are new mothers while simultaneously identifying members who are at high risk for depression. Since May 2007, Blue Cross has mailed more than 13,000 educational packets to new mothers.

Members who screen positive are encouraged to either share the results with their physician or contact a Behavioral Health Clinician for additional screening, referrals or coordination with providers. If a member needs extra support she can call to enroll in the program and the clinician will provide follow-up calls as necessary. Members can receive depression education, assistance in understanding their treatment options and support to obtain appropriate care. Behavioral Health staff can help to coordinate care with the member's medical team. Routine follow-up is also provided until such time that the member is fully engaged in treatment.

Additionally, because PPD is usually under detected and under treated, Blue Cross has delivered more than 10,000 provider tool kits to California OB/GYN practitioners and pediatricians. These "tool kits" include physician Continuing Medical Education course material, educational hand outs for their patients, and sample screening tools. "The tool kits were an enhancement to our Maternity Depression program developed after conducting several focus groups with pediatricians, OB/GYNs, primary care physicians and women who have infant children. The sessions clearly demonstrated the deep level of trust patients have with their pediatrician, OB/GYN and primary care physician," said Brian A. Sassi, president and general manager Blue Cross of California. "The most important thing to remember is that there is help for these new mothers."

"Through the Maternity Depression Program, Blue Cross provides new mothers, their family members and physicians with information and tools to identify mothers at risk for Postpartum Depression. The physician can then evaluate the mother to better understand her concerns and behavioral changes or if there are signs of significant depression," said Cheryl Noncarrow, president of Behavioral Health for Blue Cross of California. "Screening to identify issues and referring into treatment is a start in helping to restore normalcy for new moms."

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