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Perinatal Mental Health

Overview of Problem

Left untreated, mental illness or substance abuse during pregnancy or after delivery can affect the child’s language development, communication, social skills, thinking, sleep, and ability to control emotions and behaviors, and can lead to poor mother-infant bonding. Children of mothers with untreated mental illness have higher rates of depression and other mental disorders in childhood, adolescence, and later in life. One of the best ways to prevent these future mental health problems is to help pregnant women and new parents who are struggling with mental illness and addiction today.


To offer effective care or consultation to all pregnant women and families in Washington State who are affected by or at risk for mental health or substance use problems and to help their children get a better start in life.


Approximately 10,000 women giving birth in the State of Washington are experiencing or at high risk for mental health or substance use problems each year. Our goal is to provide effective treatment to all women at risk and their families during pregnancy and during the critical postpartum period. We will work closely with health care providers caring for these families (obstetricians, midwifes, family physicians, pediatricians, and other primary care providers) as well as with established public assistance programs like Women Infant and Children (food support), Medicaid, and Maternity Support Services.

Next Steps

We will expand our existing Perinatal Psychiatry Consultation Line to (a) provide trainings and toolkits on mental health screening and treatment to providers and staff in obstetric, family practice, pediatric and mental health practices throughout Washington State; (b) offer same day telephone consultation with a perinatal psychiatrist for providers caring for pregnant and postpartum women; and (c) provide care coordination services and linkages to community based resources. We will adapt the successful Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program for moms (MCPAP for moms) to the needs of our larger, more diverse state. This program uses an evidence-based approach to address the multi-dimensional challenges faced by high-risk parents based on the understanding that the mothers and parents of today, often from families experiencing inter-generational mental illness and addiction, want to be “good parents” but lack the skills, resources, and support to make that a reality.

Get Involved
Please contact Amritha Bhat, MD, MPH ( for information on how to get involved in this initiative.


Amritha Bhat, MD, MPH

Deb Cowley, MD

Bob Hilt, MD

as of October, 2019

  • ​Identified over 385 perinatal mental health providers across Washington State (Moms’ Access Project).

  • Implemented perinatal collaborative care in The Vancouver Clinic, Vancouver, WA and in Neighborhood clinics.

  • Completed 17 in person and webinar perinatal mental health trainings in the last year – to pediatricians, nurse practitioners, obstetricians and family physicians.

  • Funded by the HCA January 2019 to expand our Perinatal Psychiatry consultation line.

  • Presented work at the NAMI Washington conference and the International Marce Society for Perinatal Mental Health.

  • Launched a perinatal mental health ECHO program – MAP ECHO.

  • Secured fund to start a new Women’s Mental Health Fellowship, slated to begin July 2020.

  • Developing a parenting program for delivery in integrated perinatal depression treatment.


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