NEW YORK, NY, AND DENVER, CO (September 2, 2021) – CAI and key partners in New York and Colorado announced today that they have received federal funding to launch a new training program on maternal depression for community health workers and other non-clinical health care staff.
The grant award from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Bureau will enable CAI and its partners at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Health and Hygiene, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Tri-County Health Department (Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties in Colorado) to develop and implement a training program to help non-clinical healthcare workers recognize and respond to maternal depression. The new HRSA funding stream that this training program will be a part of – “Emerging Issues in Maternal and Child Health” – aims to strengthen the capacities of state and local organizations to respond to issues that are affecting prioritized populations at an increased rate.
Over the last five years, CAI has worked closely with 21 community-based, grassroots organizations serving largely Black and Latinx populations in New York City zip codes with the highest maternal and infant mortality rates, and this experience has illuminated pervasive, unmet mental health needs among pregnant and postpartum individuals. While maternal depression and anxiety are far from new phenomena, there is a growing understanding not only of how pervasive and harmful it can be, but also of the relationship between social determinants of health and maternal depression and anxiety. Approximately 20 percent of women of color report depression and anxiety during pregnancy, and Black and Latinx women are twice as likely as white women to experience postpartum depressive symptoms.
In coordination with its partners in New York City and Colorado, CAI will be providing training to community health workers and other non-clinical staff in communication, advocacy, and empowerment skills (i.e., goal setting, skill building, and linkage to resources), as well as distress and threat recognition. Building on the strong trusting relationships community health workers have with clients, the program will strengthen the ability of this community-based workforce to support mental health needs in a culturally responsive manner and help to reduce stigma and make services more accessible. This curriculum will provide “on-the-ground” workers with the skills to not ignore or “shy away” from addressing red flags, enhance key communication skills that support clients, acknowledge the fears and hesitations of clients to seek mental health services, and practice using these skills through a behavior-change lens. This work is complex, nuanced, and critically important to the overall maternal health of the community.
Project Director Clare Friedrich said: “CAI is excited to expand on our work in the Maternal Child Health field through this HRSA-MCH Emerging Issues grant. We know women of color are disproportionately impacted by maternal depression, due to social stigma and other barriers like cost and insurance. The pandemic has exacerbated this issue, and mental health services just aren’t readily available as quickly or as widely as communities need them to be. Through CAI’s decades of experience training community health workers, we know how vital community health workers are in bridging the gaps between communities and health care systems.”