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Postpartum depression screening bill gets Abbott's signature

Photo courtesy of Bas Silderhuis for The Texas Tribune.

by Marissa Evans | The Texas Tribune

Texas mothers taking their new babies for checkups through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program will be able to get postpartum depression screenings and counseling under a bill Gov. Greg Abbott signed Thursday.

The goal of House Bill 2466 is to get low-income mothers screened for postpartum depression early — during their baby's initial doctor visits. Roughly 17 percent of Texas mothers experience postpartum depression before or after giving birth, according to a 2016 report from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services. Symptoms can include anxiety, panic attacks, shame, loss of appetite, sleeplessness and feelings of guilt.

Stephanie Rubin, executive director for the nonprofit Texans Care for Children, said in a news release that HB 2466 is "the most significant step" legislators took this session to address the state's rise in mothers dying less than a year after childbirth.

"Passing this bill is a key step toward connecting more new moms with the treatment they need to get healthy and support their babies' health," Rubin said.

The bill signing comes as the state tries to find ways to curb its rising maternal mortality rate. The state's Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity reported in July that between 2011 and 2012, 189 Texas mothers died within a year of giving birth. That report found causes including heart disease, drug overdoses and high blood pressure. Task force members also pointed to mental health problems and substance abuse, including depression and prescription opioid overdoses, as culprits in the women's deaths.

Legislators are preparing to head back to Austin on July 18 to tackle Abbott's 20-item special session agenda. One of those items includes passing legislation that maintains the state's Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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