Baby on Board Focuses on Expectant Mothers’ Mental Health

WARREN, Ohio — Mothers-to-be who need mental health care can find the help they need through a new program in the city.

The Baby on Board program, provided by One Health Ohio and Rise Recovery, is a specialized counseling option for maternal mental health and maternal addiction. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the Lloyd McCoy Community Center at 1977 Niles Road SE, one of two locations that will treat patients.

Women experiencing symptoms including such as anxiety, obsessive or compulsive behavior, addiction, miscarriage, infertility or fetal loss are encouraged to take part in Baby on Board, said Leslie Markulin, behavioral health manager and perinatal mental health counselor. 

It’s important to address perinatal mental health, Markulin said. If a mother isn’t able to bond with her baby because of mental health, delays in the baby’s social, emotional and developmental needs will begin, she said.

Friday also marked the beginning of what Markulin and the staff supporting Baby on Board hope to achieve: breaking down misconceptions of pregnant women receiving treatment.

“Today not only do we cut the beautifully tied ribbon to begin the Baby on Board program, we also cut a barrier … built by misunderstanding and stigma,” Markulin said in her opening remarks.

One in five women will experience a mental health complication during pregnancy or after delivery, she said. One out of 1,000 women will develop postpartum psychosis. 

Only about 15% of women are correctly diagnosed with a perinatal mood disorder, she reported. That statistic makes it one of the most underdiagnosed obstetric complications in the United States, she said.

African American women experience perinatal mood disorder 35% higher than white women, while one out of 10 Black dads will, after their child is born, she said.

Expecting mothers can turn to Baby on Board for addiction services as well. Markulin and an addiction counselor are both available to help.

To be able to offer the Baby on Board services is “really important” for Mahoning, Trumbull and Start counties, said Dr. Maria Kowal, chief medical officer.

“We’re so excited to get together in the midst of the pandemic to celebrate this program,” she said. “We have the only perinatal counseling program in the tri-county area.”

Mothers seeking care should call Rise Recovery at 844 652 8219. Once an appointment is made, Markulin said she will meet with “mom, dad, the partner, whoever is willing to come and wanting to help, to assess what’s going on” and discuss a treatment plan.

The conversation surrounding perinatal mental health is “super important because it’s very much an underserved” need, she said. “Bringing this program about gives so much opportunity to individuals who have been struggling in silence and haven’t had somewhere to go for comprehensive care.”

Baby on Board accepts Medicaid and most major insurances; a sliding fee scale is available to assist the medically uninsured and underinsured who qualify. For information, call 1-877-722-3303 or visit OneHealthOhio.org/baby-on-board-program.

Pictured: On hand for the Baby on Board ribbon-cutting at One Health Ohio were Dr. Maria Kowal, chief medical officer; Leslie Markulin, behavioral health manager and perinatal mental health counselor; Dr. Ronald Dwinnells, CEO; and state Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-64.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.