On June 1, the University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson will be launching an access line to help providers across the state treat mental health conditions in their pregnant and postpartum patients.
The Arizona Perinatal Psychiatry Access Line (APAL) will be available from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday during the summer before expanding to full business hours in January 2024. Available to providers across Arizona, it offers free consultations on ways they can treat mental health and substance use conditions in pregnant and postpartum patients.
Providers who call the line (1-888-290-1336) will be connected with a perinatal psychiatrist (perinatal refers to the time surrounding birth for a pregnant person), who can answer questions, discuss cases and help them to make a plan to care for their patient.
“Ultimately, it's designed to address both huge needs for maternal mental healthcare …but also to support our colleagues in other specialties who are working really hard and are really struggling to meet this need on their own, without the support that they need," said APAL co-director Dr. Kathryn Emerick.
APAL also offers training in perinatal psychiatry to providers and organizations across Arizona as well as a website with resources grouped by county that pregnant people and their family members can access.
According to APAL co-director Dr. Saira Kalia, one in five women in the U.S. develop postpartum depression and 25% of those cases emerge during their pregnancy.
“The transition to parenthood is a very challenging piece in terms of renegotiating identities and social roles and it's a perfect storm for hormonal changes,” she said.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from Sept. 2022 show that more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths from 2017 to 2019 were preventable, with 23% being caused by a mental health condition.
Perinatal mental health conditions have a similar impact in Arizona — a March 2022 report from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) found that 98% of pregnancy-associated mental health and substance use disorder deaths were preventable.