NGA Session Highlight: Improving Youth Behavioral Health and Strengthening Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes

Sellers Dorsey recently attended the National Governors Association Annual Meeting and is pleased to share insights from an engaging session moderated by Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President of U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop. Contributing panelists included Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, First Lady of New Jersey, Tammy Snyder Murphy, and Executive Vice President of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Sean Robbins.

The discussion centered on strengthening youth behavioral health, and panelists agreed that progress begins with improving maternal and infant health outcomes. Maternal mental health during pregnancy and postpartum significantly impacts the development and well-being of children through their youth. Studies have shown that maternal stress, depression, and substance abuse can increase the risk of behavioral and emotional problems in children. Therefore, addressing maternal mental health is crucial for improving youth behavioral health outcomes.

Panelists also emphasized the importance of access to care, explaining that care for mothers, infants, and youth must meet them at their point of need. Requiring patients to meet practitioners at a particular location to receive care only creates additional obstacles. The session applauded organizations like Aetna CVS Health and others for their commitment to expanding telehealth resources and telehealth equity to access online services at an affordable price with a reasonable built-in infrastructure. For Aetna CVS Health, family planning and other behavioral health services that are accessed online are among their top priorities.

The session concluded with two initiatives of particular interest to Governor Murphy and First Lady Murphy. The first: The Strengthening Mental Health Governor’s Playbook, which is meant to serve as a tool for states to expand impactful policy solutions that strengthen youth mental health. The initiative brought together nearly 500 people including youth, Governors, and other experts who met to discuss the current state of youth mental health systems and advance best practices and impactful solutions for states.

The second initiative discussed was the Maternal and Infant Health Governor’s Playbook which is meant to be a resource for states as they navigate innovation and resources for the care of birthing people and infant needs. The playbook outlines 32 policy recommendations that can advance efforts to strengthen maternal and infant health. The guide is designed to make transformational change in a system that has historically failed the nation’s mothers and babies, especially for people of color.

Overall, the session highlighted the importance of maternal and infant health in relation to youth behavioral health and how states can prioritize these ongoing needs. Ultimately, investing in the behavioral health of mothers and children can improve behavioral health outcomes for youth and create a more resilient future for generations to come.