Texas mothers taking their new babies for checkups through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program will be able to get postpartum depression screenings and counseling under a bill Gov. Greg Abbott signed Thursday. 

The goal of House Bill 2466 is to get low-income mothers screened for postpartum depression early — during their baby's initial doctor visits. Roughly 17 percent of Texas mothers experience postpartum depression before or after giving birth, according to a 2016 report from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services. Symptoms can include anxiety, panic attacks, shame, loss of appetite, sleeplessness and feelings of guilt.

Stephanie Rubin, executive director for the nonprofit Texans Care for Children, said in a news release that HB 2466 is "the most significant step" legislators took this session to address the state's rise in mothers dying less than a year after childbirth. 

"Passing this bill is a key step toward connecting more new moms with the treatment they need to get healthy and support their babies' health," Rubin said. 

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The bill signing comes as the state tries to find ways to curb its rising maternal mortality rate. The state's Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity reported in July that between 2011 and 2012, 189 Texas mothers died within a year of giving birth. That report found causes including heart disease, drug overdoses and high blood pressure. Task force members also pointed to mental health problems and substance abuse, including depression and prescription opioid overdoses, as culprits in the women's deaths. 

Legislators are preparing to head back to Austin on July 18 to tackle Abbott's 20-item special session agenda. One of those items includes passing legislation that maintains the state's Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity. 

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Both chambers passed bills aimed at curbing postpartum depression and the alarming rise in Texas mothers dying less than a year after giving birth. [Full story]

  • House Public Health Committee members heard testimony on three measures — House Bill 2466, House Bill 2604 and House Bill 2135 — that would aim to increase access to postpartum depression screenings and treatment for mothers. [Full story]

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