SALT LAKE CITY — A resolution that identifies postpartum depression and anxiety as "a serious statewide public health issue" was approved Friday by the Senate in a unanimous vote.
Eric Dyches, of Salem, whose wife's postpartum depression and anxiety led to her untimely death in February 2016, leading him to advocate for better understanding of the issue, was in attendance on the Senate floor as SCR11 was introduced and voted on.
Dyches and the measure's sponsor, Sen. Brian Zehnder, R-Holladay, embraced after the vote was called out. He and the Dyches children, who were sitting in the gallery, were given a round of applause by the senators.
SCR11 urges the Utah Department of Health, State Department of Human Services and medical professionals to "expand provider training, education and support, and a standard of care across practices in perinatal settings" on behalf of women who suffer from the condition.
The measure requests that mothers be screened for symptoms of depression during their pregnancy and after delivery. It requests that health authorities in the state become better educated "regarding the short-term and long-term impacts of maternal depression and anxiety so that evidence-based preventative care, early identification, and treatment services are available and accessible statewide for all women."
The Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative, Utah chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians, state Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, and Young Women's Christian Association, have all previously testified to lawmakers in support of the resolution.
Zehnder, himself a family doctor, told fellow lawmakers earlier this session that postpartum depression and anxiety affects approximately 1 in 8 Utah women and is the most frequent complication associated with child birth.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, praised Dyches for his work bringing to light both the prevalence and the profound difficulties of postpartum depression. Dyches is the founder of The Emily Effect — so-named after his wife — having organized the foundation to "raise awareness and coordinate local resources for maternal mental health," according to the group's website.
"I have been just amazed and stunned at the strength that this family has offered to the rest of the state and really to the rest of the world as they have gathered themselves together and tried to make something positive happen and result from this terrible tragedy," Henderson said on the Senate floor. "I am amazed at how they have turned this bad situation into something that can help other people."
Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said the resolution is important for lawmakers to recognize that postpartum depression and anxiety "needs to be addressed as a medical condition" and that the state is committed to "get all the resources available in place" to screen and treat mothers.
"I think the conversation has changed because of brave families like yours," Escamilla told the Dyches family before the vote. "It will create a better place for families in Utah, and if we can invest in a healthy mom and a healthy family and children, it will be a better investment than anything else."
Senators voted to let the resolution to pass its second and third readings simultaneously, moving it to the House of Representatives.