Emory program supports GA women with postpartum mental health issues

In honor of Maternal Mental Health month in May, the Emory Brain Health Center is celebrating its recently launched PEACE (Perinatal Psychiatry, Education and Community Engagement) for Moms program, which seeks to support the mental health of Georgia women before and after childbirth. With funding from the Georgia Department of Public Health, the program provides expert consultation and education to physicians, physician assistants, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners.

“Psychiatric issues, such as depression and anxiety, are the most common adverse events mothers experience during the postpartum period,” says program leader Toby Goldsmith, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Emory Women’s Mental Health Program.

“We are thrilled to help address these issues by offering much-needed support and consultation to those providing care to mothers and mothers-to-be throughout the state,” says Goldsmith.

The PEACE for Moms program aims to:

  • Engage with clinicians caring for mothers and mothers-to-be and provide one-time evaluations, when needed, with women to direct care decisions.
  • Educate caregivers about the resources available to patients in their communities.
  • Provide health professionals with information so they can best treat their particular patients.
  • Train medical professionals to recognize and treat psychiatric illness in their patients and help them plan for future pregnancies.
  • Educate physicians in training on how to best address the needs of this vulnerable population.

According to Goldsmith and program leaders, PEACE for Moms will help fill gaps caused by access to care issues. Georgia has 3.2 percent of the nation’s population, but only approximately 2.3 percent of the nation’s psychiatrists.  Other mental health providers, such as psychologists, counselors and therapists are also in short supply. 

“Not only do we face a shortage of practitioners in Georgia, most women have minimal health insurance coverage for mental health issues during pregnancy and the postpartum period. As a result, it is difficult for them to be properly evaluated and cared for during this vulnerable time,” says Goldsmith. 

Of the state’s 159 counties, it is estimated only eight possess an adequate number of mental health practitioners, not all of whom are familiar with the needs of perinatal patients. Those eight counties are all within or surrounding Georgia’s cities, highlighting the needs of rural communities. 

“Through an integrated team approach, we will work with care providers to determine appropriate treatment options and support for their patients – especially in rural areas where we know access and coverage are critical issues,” says Goldsmith.

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