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Press Releases


Removing stigma and identifying depression help women get the support they need

May 18, 2017

New York, NY

First Lady Chirlane McCray today announced that all NYC Health + Hospitals locations citywide will now provide maternal depression screenings for pregnant women and new mothers. Through an expansion under ThriveNYC, depression screenings will be adopted as a routine part of care at pre-natal clinics at 12 NYC Health + Hospital sites, including all 11 hospitals and NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Gouverneur, a large community health center on the Lower East Side.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 9 women experience maternal depression. Yet too often, maternal depression goes undiagnosed because many providers do not regularly provide screenings and women are afraid of the stigma associated with the condition. Universal screening ensures that pregnant women and new mothers get the support they need to recover and fully bond with their new babies.

“Maternal depression is common. It’s also treatable – but only if women know to get help,” said the First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray, who spearheads the city’s efforts on mental health and substance misuse. “Too often, women are afraid to admit that they’re struggling because they don’t understand that their pain is a real, clinical condition and they don’t want to be labeled a bad mom. Universal screening for maternal depression reminds women they should never feel ashamed for needing help. It also connects them to care early so they can recover and experience the joy of a new baby. I’m so proud that Health + Hospitals will be screening every new mother. We will continue to help transform the culture around postpartum depression and connect new families to essential resources.”

Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Richard Buery said, “Each year in New York City, several thousands of women experience depression after pregnancy, yet, for many, the fear of looking like a ‘bad mother’ prevents them from reaching out for the care they need. By making maternal depression screening available at all Health + Hospitals locations Citywide, ThriveNYC removes stigma as a barrier for seeking help and closes a critical treatment gap – providing new mothers the right interventions at the right time to ensure they and their newborn can have a healthy and stable transition into their new life together.”

“Depression screening is the first step toward addressing the overall wellness of pregnant women and new moms,” said Gregory Calliste, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull. “Once a need is identified it is essential to have services in place and ready to address the patient’s concerns. Woodhull’s Mothers Support Groups were designed to increase access to timely mental health services to address maternal depression and provide women with a necessary support system. We are encouraged by the impact the program has been having on the lives of the women we treat and look forward to expanding our efforts.”

Every year, over 18,000 newborns are delivered in the NYC Health + Hospitals system. Since April 2016, NYC Health + Hospitals has screened over 6,500 pre-natal patients and over 2,700 post-partum patients. NYC Health + Hospitals expects to screen 15,000 patients over the next year through the expansion of the program.

The screenings are conducted through a series of questions known as the PHQ-9 tool, which is typically self-administered by patients during the intake process. In the last year, nine percent of pre-natal patients screened positive for maternal depression. A continued effort to address stigma through ThriveNYC public awareness campaigns and other forms of outreach aims to further reduce the number of women who refuse treatment or fail to appear for follow-up appointments.

The maternal depression screening project is an initiative of ThriveNYC, New York City’s comprehensive plan to overhaul the City’s approach to mental health by removing stigma as a barrier for seeking care and increasing the availability of treatment options. The initiative established a citywide collaborative to increase maternal depression screening at hospitals responsible for 80% of the live births in New York City, which includes members of the Greater New York Hospital Association.

“Screening for maternal depression has been an important part of my Family-Friendly Brooklyn vision, a vision that promotes a borough where we raise healthy children and families,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “I have been proud to partner with organizations like the Seleni Institute to help train practitioners, and I’m pleased that NYC Health + Hospitals is expanding screenings across its system. I call on the State to fully fund maternal depression screening, as we look to support every pregnant woman and new mom in New York.”

“By expanding these critical maternal depression screenings across our public health system, our City’s new moms and soon-to-be-moms will be able to receive adequate support, resources and treatment,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “I commend First Lady Chirlane McCray, Thrive NYC, and NYC Health + Hospitals for ensuring that new families across our City receive the assistance they need.”

“Having a baby can be an incredible and rewarding experience for moms and families, but it is also a very challenging time,” said State Senator Liz Krueger. “Many women experience symptoms of maternal depression without knowing what’s happening to them, and without having access to diagnosis and treatment. But once diagnosed, maternal depression is very treatable. That’s why the First Lady’s initiative is so important. I thank her for her efforts on this issue, and NYC Health + Hospitals for looking after the mental health of New York’s new moms and families.”
Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz said, “I welcome additional screening for pregnant women and new mothers, a program I’ve long championed in Albany since I chaired the Mental Health Committee and where I have a bill to mandate this effort statewide. This is a welcome development for our growing communities with so many children and growing families. Healthy mothers lead to healthier families.”

“I commend First Lady Chirlane McCray for this bold initiative,” said Assembly Member Roxanne Persaud. “Too long has mental health been something discussed only in the shadows. We must provide holistic health for all New Yorkers especially women when they are most vulnerable. The mental health of our mothers is vital to the overall health of the family unit.”
“This is a tremendous step to making sure that new and expecting moms are getting the care they need,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “NYC Health + Hospitals will not only help diagnose women struggling with mental illness, they will break the stigma around maternal depression, which continues to be a barrier to proper treatment.”

“Becoming a mom is one of the most beautiful and challenging experiences a woman can have,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. “If a new mother is having difficulty transitioning, she should have the support and education she needs to ensure she can keep herself and her family healthy. I commend the First Lady for yet another valuable investment in the health of women through ThriveNYC. And I look forward to supporting this initiative so that New York City families may continue to grow here.”

“As co-chair of the City Council Women’s Caucus and a mother, I want to commend NYC Health + Hospitals for including depression screening as part of the care plan for new mothers at all of its hospitals. It’s critical that all new moms get the physical and emotional support they need as soon as possible. Post-partum depression is treatable and should not be stigmatized. NYC HHC is leading the way in adopting a new approach to this not unusual result of childbirth,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.