A New York City Program Will Grant All First-Time Parents Mental Health Care Visits After They Give Birth

Supermajority Education Fund

February 12, 2020

Public health experts are applauding a new New York City program, the New Family Home Visits initiative, that will grant all first-time parents as many as six in-home mental health care visits in the months after giving birth. The city’s first lady Chirlane McCray unveiled the new initiative on Feb 5.

The in-home visits, which will be provided by local community organizations contracted by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and in conjunction with the Administration for Children’s Services, is open to all new parents, including patients who might have otherwise been overlooked or otherwise unable to see a health care provider. The visits are designed to help new parents transition into parenthood and improve both infant and maternal health by reducing emergency room visits and identifying signs of child abuse early on. Parents who adopt or have their babies delivered via surrogacy will also qualify for the program. 

“Intervening in this critical time period for both the mother and the child is a really great thing,” Dr. Jennifer Payne, director of the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told Supermajority News. “We know that most mothers with postpartum depression don’t get identified and treated,” Payne continued, adding that “a lot of women feel ashamed that they don’t feel well or happy during the postpartum time period.”

While still misunderstood and overlooked by many new parents today, postpartum depression is the most common post-pregnancy complication for parents who have recently given birth, said Payne. As many as one in five new parents will show signs of the illness, which can include low moods, the struggle to bond with one’s child, and extreme anxiety about the baby’s welfare.

McCray revealed to reporters that she struggled with postpartum depression after giving birth to her first child in the 1990s. “I couldn’t bring my baby home. I was a mess,” McCray told the New York Times. “There should have been someone other than the nurses and the doctors to talk to.”

In recent years, several cities and counties across the United States have begun offering similar at-home mental health visits to new parents. The fact that mental health care is still inaccessible to many American families is also a major reason why Payne says these in-home visits are key. “I think that psychotherapy is a wonderful treatment, but most young mothers I know have a hard time getting anywhere once a week,” she said, adding that making appointments and searching for providers also requires the patient to self-identify as depressed. In-home visits, Payne noted, make obtaining care “a normal part of the process, you have a baby, we show up at your house.”