Postpartum depression bill advances in Kentucky Legislature

by Sarah Ladd, Kentucky Lantern
February 24, 2023

This story mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

A bill aimed at providing education and resources for new parents passed Kentucky’s Senate unanimously. 

The legislation can now go to the House for a vote. 

The Republican-sponsored Senate Bill 135 would “develop written information on postpartum depression” and make it widely available in labor and delivery hospitals, birthing centers and online for both patients and providers. 

Additionally, it would require the use of assessment tools to screen for postpartum depression, the Lantern previously reported

“Our commonwealth is in need of a physical, a financial, an emotional and a mental wellness revolution,” bill sponsor Sen. Shelley Funke Frommeyer, R-Alexandria, said on the Senate floor Friday. 

‘Life and death’ issue

She previously said in committee that education and awareness about postpartum depression is a “life and death” issue. 

Earlier this session, legislators heard testimony on a new state report that showed at least 8.4% of Kentucky’s maternal deaths between 2017 and 2019 were from suicide and more than 90% of the state’s maternal deaths are preventable.

That’s on top of already dismal maternal mortality rates in the state, which failed its March of Dimes maternal and infant health report card last year.  

SB135 directs the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to establish a panel made up of obstetric and mental health care providers as well. 

That panel will investigate care gaps “related to perinatal mental health disorders that are linked to geographic, racial, and ethnic inequalities.” It will also look at “lack of screenings; and insufficient access to treatments, professionals, or support groups.”  

Perinatal is the period of time from conception to one year after birth, Louisville psychologist Ashley Belcher previously said. 

“This bill,” Funke Frommeyer said Friday, “is aimed at supporting our families going upstream at the formation of the families.” 

Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in a statement that the bill “can make a real difference” and “improve outcomes for new parents and their babies.”

He added: “Parents need to be healthy, have access to the care and services they need, and have the necessary resources to meet basic needs throughout their pregnancy, birth, and after welcoming a new child.”



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Photo:  Sen. Shelley Funke Frommeyer, R-Alexandria, speaks on her perinatal depression support bill. (McKenna Horsley)