I would like to offer some clarification regarding an article in the May 19
issue, "Law Directs Physicians to Counsel Mothers-to-Be About
The article concerns a new law in new Jersey that seeks to implement an
initiative launched early last year by then Acting Gov. Richard Codey to
educate both the public and health care professionals about postpartum
depression. The law requires all licensed professionals giving antenatal and
postpartum care, as well as birthing facilities, to provide to pregnant women
and their families "as appropriate.. .complete information about
postpartum depression, including its symptoms, methods of coping with the
illness, and treatment resources." To this end, screening is mandated"
prior to discharge from the birthing facility and at the first few
postnatal checkup visits."
Some colleagues have questioned the role of New Jersey psychiatrists in
this initiative and expressed concern about possible sanctions that may apply
to physicians and nurses who fail to follow the new law.
Psychiatrists participated in developing a PowerPoint presentation, as
members of the Subcommittee for Professional Education of the original Work
Group on Postpartum Depression appointed by the governor. I served on that
subcommittee, which was chaired by Ricardo Fernandez, M.D., a fellow member of
the New Jersey Psychiatric Association, along with several obstetricians,
obstetrical nurses, a pediatrician, and psychologist. The educational program,
to which we gave the title Perinatal Mood Disorders, may be adapted for use
with professional education credit by psychiatrists, other physicians, and
health care workers. It is posted on a New Jersey state Web site,<www.njspeakup.gov>.
The recommended screening tool is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.
Several regional symposia have been conducted to train additional
professionals, including psychiatrists, to disseminate the program as widely
At this time, policies and procedures are being developed by the New Jersey
Department of Health and Senior Services in conjunction with the Board of
Medical Examiners and the New Jersey Board of Nursing, which are expected to
work with health care facilities and licensed health care professionals in the
state to achieve the requirements of the law. It is quite possible, whether or
not there is genuine consultation with service providers, that sanctions may
be imposed for noncompliance, though I and others have expressed concern that
sanctions may constitute an unfair hardship unless there is mandated payment
(from the state or private insurance companies) to cover the extra
professional time required for regular screening and education of patients and