Less than three months ago, three children lost their lives in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Their mother murdered them and attempted to end her own life by jumping out of the window of their home. Lindsay Clancy was loved by both her family and her coworkers, and her husband claims that at the times of the killings, this “wasn’t the real her.” Clancy had spent five days in a mental hospital only three weeks before her children died—she was struggling, as many mothers do, with perinatal depression. Insurance companies often do not cover enough of perinatal depression care—meaning if the parent is announced no longer suicidal by the health care provider, then the insurance coverage ends, even if further care is needed.
Perinatal depression, and overall maternal mental health is a topic not nearly talked about as much as it should be. Lindsay Clancy’s struggle with perinatal mental health issues is not the only one: one in five women will experience some sort of perinatal mental health condition according to the World Health Organization. Maternal depression is the most common pregnancy complication, as well as the most expensive. Beyond expenses, access to mental health services is also clouded by stigma: many parents do not want to reach out for help as they feel weak or deem themselves parenting failures. This needs to change: all mothers in Massachusetts should have affordable and consistent access to mental health services throughout their postpartum mental health journey.
Mental health care is expensive—in 2018, out-of-pocket pregnancy costs averaged $1,372 in Massachusetts. Maternal mental health services are often grouped into overall pregnancy costs, as seen in organizations like Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program for Moms (MCPAP) and MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health. For a state that prides itself on an equitable healthcare framework, $1,372 is incredibly expensive.
Ensuring Access to Full-Spectrum Pregnancy Care is a bill that would remove all cost-sharing for families that need pregnancy-related medical services—including mental health. This means insurance companies will take on the fiscal responsibility of health services that families cannot afford—big corporations can afford to take the hit.
Massachusetts families like the Clancys have suffered as a result of not receiving the health care they needed. This bill closes the gap for people who are ineligible for Massachusetts state insurance but are still unable to access health care because of their high-deductible health insurance plans. People who experience perinatal depression access health care at higher rates, resulting in increased medical expenses. Removing cost-sharing reduces financial barriers and encourages those who are struggling to secure the support they need.
Lindsay Clancy’s situation was entirely preventable. If the Massachusetts state government had invested more resources in pregnant people and their health, perhaps the Clancy children would still be alive today. Tragedies like Lindsay Clancy’s should not be a norm in Massachusetts. There is a solution to this problem, and bills like Ensuring Access to Full-Spectrum Pregnancy Care will help Massachusetts take the next step toward preventing perinatal depression-related tragedies.
Broken families should not be a result of insufficient funding for mothers and their mental health. Now is the time to contact your Massachusetts legislators in the Committee on Financial Services and ask them to hold a hearing! Allowing mothers, children and families to suffer is unacceptable: speak up now.