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Need for Postpartum Mental Health Care in Colorado is Prevalent But Often Overlooked, Leading Colorado Access to Recommend Extending Postpartum Benefits for Medicaid Population

Colorado Access Supports Section 9 of SB21-194 to Extend Maternal Health Benefits of Medicaid Members From 60 Days to 12 Months, Allowing New Mothers Access to Critical Physical and Behavioral Care

DENVER – May 4, 2021 – In the context of a nation grappling with a maternal health crisis that is disproportionately felt by women of color, Colorado Access joins local community organizations in the belief that expanding postpartum Medicaid and CHP+ coverage from 60 days to a year, as outlined in Section 9 of Senate Bill 21-194, will make a meaningful difference in improving access to care and ultimately improving health outcomes.

Depression and anxiety represent the most common complications during and after pregnancy. Supporting and prioritizing the mental health of all pregnant and postpartum people is vital to the well-being of women, children and families in Colorado. Extending postpartum coverage will allow Colorado Access and similar organizations to better serve new moms across the continuum of their health care needs, including mental health care.

Existing data from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment indicates that Black, non-Hispanic women and women on Medicaid/CHP+ have the highest rates of postpartum depression (PPD); between 2012-2014, 16.3% of Black, non-Hispanic women reported experiencing symptoms of depression in the postpartum period compared with only 8.7% of white, non-Hispanic women. Similarly, 14% of women on Medicaid/CHP+ experienced PPD symptoms compared with 6.6% of privately insured women (source). It is important to note that postpartum mental health needs may be severely underreported and, in reality, the prevalence is likely much higher. 

In 2019, there were 62,875 live births in the state of Colorado; of these, 15.1% (9,481) were to Colorado Access members. Statewide, just 5.6% (3,508) of all births were to Black, non-Hispanic mothers (source), compared with 14.9% (1,415) among births covered by Colorado Access. Because Colorado Access covers a disproportionate share of Black, non-Hispanic women in Colorado, and because it is aware of the heightened risk of PPD in this population in particular, it is uniquely situated as an organization to better meet the specific health care needs of its members in the perinatal period.  

The organization’s Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby program has been a resource for its members for more than five years, providing support around and access to prenatal care, mental health programs, WIC, baby supplies, etc. throughout pregnancy and just after delivery. However, mental health disorders don’t necessarily surface, nor are they necessarily treated, within the first 60 days after birth. 

“We know that our moms are at increased risk for experiencing struggles during this first year of life, and how important it is to provide proactive and uninterrupted mental health support for our members,” said Krista Beckwith, senior director of population health and quality. “This is why it is so important that women on Medicaid maintain their enrollment for the first twelve months postpartum. New moms shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they will have access to the services and support they need during that critical first year.”

One behavioral health provider offering this type of support is Olivia D. Hannon Cichon of Olive Tree Counseling, LLC. She is currently completing her perinatal mental health certification in order to focus more on maternal and postpartum mental health.

“From both my personal and professional experience, I believe that efforts in caring for postpartum mothers need to be increased,” Hannon Cichon said. “In the last month or so of pregnancy, mothers are often seen by a medical provider on a weekly basis. After birth, they are not treated again until the baby is six weeks old. At that point, the mother has experienced a huge change in hormones, is sleep deprived and working through both the physical and emotional trauma that often comes from birth.”

The overall success rate for treating postpartum depression is 80% (source). In addition, research shows that coverage before, during and after pregnancy leads to positive maternal and infant outcomes by facilitating greater access to care. Extending coverage for postpartum care is a meaningful and necessary step forward that will ultimately improve the health of Colorado and its communities. 

About Colorado Access
As the largest and most experienced public sector health plan in the state, Colorado Access is a nonprofit organization that works beyond just navigating health services. The company focuses on meeting members’ unique needs by partnering with providers and community organizations to provide better personalized care through measurable results. Their broad and deep view of regional and local systems allows them to stay focused on our members’ care while collaborating on measurable and economically sustainable systems that serve them better. Learn more at