Picture of a mom holding a baby up over her head

Maternal Mental Health Month: Meet the Bright Beginnings team

Each year, May marks the start of Maternal Mental Health Month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Maternal Mental Health refers to a mother’s overall emotional, social, and mental well-being, both during and after pregnancy. We recognize this month to spread awareness, support, and to encourage the availability of resources for mothers throughout the world.

7 years ago, Lyndsay is driving her newborn to the doctor’s office. As a brand-new mom, she claps her hands to check her baby’s alertness, looking repeatedly to ensure her baby is breathing during the entire 10-minute drive. Upon arriving to the office, she checks with her doctor about her concerns. They reassure her this is “typical,” just another symptom of new motherhood, or the “baby blues.” Lyndsay leaves the office feeling confused, with a feeling in her gut that something isn’t quite right.

Experiences like Lyndsay’s affect mothers worldwide. While awareness is still growing, today, we know that worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, with the most common being depression. These statistics also show a staggering health disparity for women of color. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 30-40% of Black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Alaska Native women do not get the prenatal care they need. This is where programs like Bright Beginnings make a huge difference, stepping in to fill necessary gaps in care like transportation, resources, and provider referrals to help new parents to effectively care for themselves and their mental health.

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As a Licensed Social Worker with the Health Plan, Lyndsay recognizes these gaps, and now works persistently to ensure members receive the care they need while pregnant or postpartum through the Bright Beginnings program. Working with individuals who need anything from resources and transportation to treatment for post-partum psychosis, Lyndsay approaches each member with respect and a listening ear. 

“I say, ‘tell me your barriers. You can’t get there? Let me find telehealth. You can’t afford it? Let me find someone who does a sliding scale,’ just really trying to make sure that I’m able to give them all the resources and options that I can give them.”

-Lyndsay, Case Manager

The Bright Beginning program, led by Kara Traverse, includes a team of Licensed Social Workers and Registered Nurses who meet with members referred by area doctors and hospitals, family, and even members themselves. They contact the member, listen to their concerns, and screen for depression and anxiety. From there, the case manager assesses and makes appropriate recommendations, providing resources for transportation, education, mental health support, and more.

Above all, the Bright Beginnings team stands out as a remarkable group of compassionate and experienced health care professionals. In fact, Kara remarks that the team compiled their work experience, saying they collectively have “over 102 years of maternal health experience” on their team.

Excellus BCBS recognizes the gaps in maternal mental health awareness, and the need for more equitable healthcare for members and the community at large. The Bright Beginnings program is just one of a few programs aimed at combatting these issues. We also collaborate with community-based partners which are committed to increasing maternal health care awareness and availability. From breast pump and pregnancy education to mental health screenings and arranging visits to the hospital and pediatrician, the Bright Beginnings program enlists licensed social workers and registered nurses to help parents stay on track, caring for themselves and their children.

Excellus BCBS also supports programs for maternal mental health run by community-based organizations in our regions. Some of these efforts include: Seven Valleys Health Coalition’s Post Partum Doula Support and Doula Partnership, Contact Community Services’ Maternal Mental Health Follow Up Support, and Integrated Community Alternatives Network’s Maternal Health Equity for Pregnant Homeless Teens.

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