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May 31, 2023

Grant from AHCCCS Helps Launch Psychiatric Access Line for Health Care Providers Who Care for Pregnant and Postpartum Persons with Mental Health Disorders

The Arizona Perinatal Psychiatry Access Line (APAL), scheduled to open in June, will offer health care providers free consultations on how to treat pregnant and postpartum persons.

Funded through a $1.6 million grant from AHCCCS, partners at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson and Banner - University Medicine will launch a new service in June for health care providers who care for pregnant and postpartum persons experiencing mental health and substance use conditions. The project comes amid rising rates of mental illnesses and maternal mortality, and a shortage of psychiatric providers trained to care for pregnant and postpartum individuals.

“Through a cross-sector learning collaborative created with the Pregnant and Postpartum Women grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), we learned that health care providers had a lot of trepidation around how to treat pregnant and postpartum patients with substance use disorder (SUD),” said Kate Dobler, project director for AHCCCS. “Two years ago we developed a plan to launch a learning collaborative for providers to be able to ask for help in treating pregnant and postpartum women with SUD. That cross-sector learning collaborative elevated the need to directly support providers to feel confident in treating perinatal mental health diagnoses, and now this phone line is a reality.”

One in five pregnant people suffer from a mental health condition during and up to one year after pregnancy. Perinatal mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders are the most common complications of pregnancy and are preventable causes of maternal, fetal and infant illness and death. APAL aims to provide health care professionals with the resources they need to effectively manage perinatal mental health disorders and improve outcomes for a vulnerable population in Arizona. APAL organizers also will collect data on trends of perinatal mental illness in Arizona in order to inform state and federal health care systems about the best models for care delivery.

“In the face of a number of potential barriers to accessing mental health treatment, individuals who are in the perinatal period often face even more barriers, including a lack of providers who have specialized training in the intricacies of treatment for mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders in the perinatal period and which medications are safe for use in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding,” said Rachael Salley, maternal child health manager at AHCCCS.

The toll free APAL number, 1-888-290-1336, will go live on June 1. It will be open Monday through Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. through December 2023, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting in January 2024. Health care providers will be connected to a perinatal psychiatrist to discuss their patient’s case and how to provide the best care. See the APAL flier to distribute to providers.

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