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Gianforte Announces Investment To Improve Health Care For Moms

Together with Department of Public Health and Human Services director Charlie Brereton and the Montana Healthcare Foundation, Gov. Greg Gianforte has announced the investment of $7.5 million to increase access to behavioral health and substance use disorder screening and treatment for pregnant and postpartum women across the state.

“There’s no more important role in life than being a parent,” Gianforte said. “With this investment, we’re improving health care for new and expecting moms, strengthening our families and communities.”

The investment, comprised of federal funding and private funding from MHF, will expand behavioral health care services for new and expecting moms to all of Montana’s 31 hospitals that deliver babies through the Meadowlark Initiative. Currently, the program is only available in 19 facilities.

A partnership between DPHHS and MHF, Meadowlark supports a clinical team of prenatal and postpartum care and behavioral health providers to serve pregnant women and their families and improve health outcomes.

“As part of our strong commitment to improving access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment services, DPHHS is proud to continue this partnership and eager to expand to more Montana communities,” Brereton said. “In particular, this program has positively impacted our child welfare system by providing preventive care to families at a time when they need it most.”

For patients with a substance use disorder, care coordinators serve as an advocate for the patient by helping the prenatal and postpartum care team establish a relationship with the local and regional Child and Family Services Division office. Meadowlark providers work with families affected by substance use to create a “plan of safe care.”

Through this collaboration, CFSD staff can better understand each situation and respond to drug-exposed births with a greater awareness of the patient’s history and the steps they are taking toward recovery – reducing the need for family separations.

“Meadowlark care is improving outcomes for families across Montana,” said MHF Chief Executive Officer Aaron Wernham, MD.

In an evaluation completed last year, more women seen by Meadowlark providers received recommended prenatal care and routine screening for mental illness and substance use disorders with the average percentage of women receiving adequate prenatal care increasing from 68 percent to 85 percent in all Meadowlark sites.

“These results are encouraging, but more work remains,” Dr. Wernham said. “Montana continues to demonstrate a great need for substance use disorder and mental health services and support for pregnant and postpartum women.”

The expansion of Meadowlark comes just months after the governor proposed and secured Medicaid coverage for mothers up to 12 months postpartum.

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