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New Mexican Children And New Mothers Facing Mental Health Issues

New Mexico Department of Health
Kevin Meerschaert
New Mexico Department of Health

According to the New Mexico Department of Health the maternal mortality rate has been on the rise for decades, and of those deaths many may be preventable.

In a report presented Monday to the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee about 700 women die each year in the US as a result of pregnancy complications.

In New Mexico, two-thirds the pregnancy related deaths   occurred after the pregnancy ended.

The most frequent underlying cause of the deaths was mental health related.

In an emotional hearing, Sunshine Muse, the executive director of the New Mexico Birth Equity Collaborative told the committee of the trauma many native and black women are going through having to grow up without a mother.

She says it’s even harder when getting pregnant while divorced or unmarried. 

“We almost have to crawl to the end of our lives especially if we are bringing little people behind us. A member of our coalition recently said ‘You can’t win for losing,” she said. “At this point it so dangerous to be a pregnant women of color in the United States of America that it’s almost safer to have an abortion.”          

The report investigated deaths in New Mexico from 2015 to 2018.  DOH says the time lag is because of the time needed to closely examine all the deaths in question.

The New Mexico Maternal Mortality Review Committeewhich conducted the study presented some recommendations.

They included increasing access to perinatal mental health services and Substance Use Disorder treatment, and incentivizing hospitals to engage in ongoing quality improvement.  

New Mexico’s Behavioral Health Collaborativeis also working to improve the lives of state residents and improve access to mental health and substance abuse treatment. 

Speaking to the Committee on Monday, Dr. Neal Bowen, Director of the Behavioral Health Services Division of the Human Services Department said they are focusing on expanding and strengthening the behavioral health workforce in the state and to expand services for children and families.

Bowen says one focus is increasing hours and services at the existing school health centers while moving to add 13 more in the state.

“That is an extraordinary intervention to help children and adolescents get assistance where they actually spend a great deal of time,” he said. “The problem of transportation is eliminated and well functioning school-based health clinics (is where) families can also get access to services and you get coordinated care.”    

New Mexico’s suicide rate remains among the highest in the nation.

Bowen says the program“Zero Suicide”is working to reduce the numbers.

The program includes more training for health care providers so they can recognize the symptoms of suicidal individuals and getting them connected with the proper support staff they need.         

The recently established 988 “Crisis Now” Hotline has been getting a lot of calls since its inception in July.

According to the report it has seen over 5,000 encounters to date, with about 30-percent being suicide related.