HELENA – Women who are pregnant or recently gave birth will have more access to mental-health care in Montana under a new program, Gov. Steve Bullock announced Monday.
Bullock, along with the Montana Healthcare Foundation (MHCF), announced more than $5 million in federal and private funding to improve timely access to care for pregnant and postpartum women experiencing behavioral health challenges, such as mental health disorders and substance abuse.
The announcement was made in a press release from the governor’s office.
The Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services was awarded a $3.2 million federal grant and the MHCF pledged up to $1.2 million in additional funding each year in 2019 and 2020 to launch the Perinatal Behavioral Health Initiative (PBHI), with support expected to continue for this initiative through 2023.
“This innovative new approach recognizes that perinatal drug and alcohol use has serious impacts on the health of children and families in Montana and that we must do more to solve this complex problem,” said Bullock in the press release. “This public-private partnership will help build stronger support networks for pregnant women and create a foundation of care that will improve the lives of our youngest children and the people who raise and care for them.”
The funding will be awarded to providers who work closely with pregnant and postpartum women experiencing behavioral health issues. Family practitioners, obstetricians, midwives and rural hospitals are encouraged to apply online.
The application deadline for the first round of funding is Jan. 31, 2019. Over the next five years, the PBHI aims to support at least one practice in each of the communities with hospitals that deliver babies.
PBHI will help medical practices implement a coordinated team of obstetric providers, behavioral health providers and care coordinators, as well as peer supports. Teams will be co-located at a single site when possible to support effective ‘warm handoffs’ between obstetric and behavioral health providers.
Participating practices will use screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment as core elements of their practice model. PBHI will establish integrated care teams that will screen, assess, provide effective outpatient interventions, coordinate services to address social factors such as transportation and housing, and establish referral networks for women who need more care.
This effort also connects to the DPHHS First Year’s Initiative that focuses on providing targeted resources, education, and services during the early critical period in the lives of children and their parents during pregnancy and the weeks and months after birth.
“The Perinatal Behavioral Health Initiative will give women around Montana prompt access to effective, supportive care for mental health issues and drug and alcohol use,” said Dr. Aaron Wernham, CEO of MHCF. “The growing need for perinatal behavioral health support and the limited supply of health care providers, especially in rural and underserved areas, creates the opportunity for the state to creatively address these gaps.”
“Assisting pregnant women with healthy pregnancies and healthy babies is an agency priority and addressing their behavioral health is key in obtaining improved outcomes,” said DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan.
The PBHI builds on the previously launched MHCF-funded Solving Perinatal Drug and Alcohol Use Initiative already in hospitals in Butte, Kalispell, Missoula and Great Falls. This initiative is based on a team-based model which, in other states, has been shown to reduce the adverse outcomes associated with perinatal substance use disorders, including newborn drug exposure, premature delivery, foster care placement, and complications such as neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Earlier this year, Bullock toured St. Vincent Healthcare and Kalispell Regional Healthcare and participated in roundtable discussions to see firsthand how these two facilities are addressing this issue.
The larger population centers involved in the Solving Perinatal Drug and Alcohol Use Initiative will serve as hubs for PBHI and will be connected to providers in the surrounding rural regions of the state. New sites will be selected in areas with limited services available, high substance use rates, reservations and areas not already being served through the Solving Perinatal Drug and Alcohol Use Initiative.