Policy Resource

Ohio's Maternal Depression Screening Program Creates Synergy Between Home Visiting and Mental Health Services

Feb 9, 2016

In 2004, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS), the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), pediatricians, mental health providers, and home visitors came together to improve awareness and screening for maternal depression.

The Ohio Pediatric Research Consortium partnered with the state agencies to train primary care pediatricians and pediatric residents who screen and refer mothers with, or at risk of depression. In 2006, MHAS and ODH worked together to develop a Maternal Depression Screening and Response Program (MDSR). After a pilot phase in seven counties, MDSR became a required component of Ohio’s home visiting and early intervention program for expectant, first-time, and other parents at highest risk; MDSR in early intervention operates in all 88 counties, and in the 83 counties where home visiting services occur.

In 2012, the screening became mandatory in order for mothers to participate in the home visiting program, and it remains optional for mothers participating in the Part C early intervention program. Positive screens are referred to participating community mental health therapists for services, which are delivered concurrently with home visiting. There is regular contact between mental health providers and home visitors, and in some places cross-system training and monthly conference calls to support mutual problem solving, resolve issues, and motivate ongoing participation occur. Home visitors attend one of the final therapy sessions to review the impact of treatment and to facilitate follow-up support. Early Head Start and mental health screeners have also become involved with the MDSR. A web-based data system is utilized to enter screening information and make facilitated mental health referrals. Data are analyzed and shared with participating programs, which allows for better communication between the program and MHAS around services provided to mothers and young children in each county.

This description of Ohio’s work is highlighted in ZERO TO THREE’s publication A Place to Get Started: Innovation in Infant and Toddler State Policies and in greater detail in Nurturing Change: State Strategies for Improving Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.

Reviewed May 2020

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