CLASP ED Olivia Golden Invites Children’s Advocates to Help Combat Maternal Depression

By Sarah Scaffidi

Olivia Golden, the executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), joined this month’s CCF state partner call to share her extensive knowledge about maternal depression. She gave an impassioned call to action for children’s advocates to work on policies to address maternal depression and made the following key points.

Maternal depression is an important issue that deserves our attention. Left untreated, it becomes a significant public health problem. Half of low-income children live with a mother experiencing some level of depression, and more than a third of the mothers who have had a major depressive episode do not get treatment. This is harmful to the child’s development and learning. The good news is that maternal depression is highly treatable, which makes it a prime example to be used when explaining the importance of Medicaid coverage for parents.

CLASP could be a great partner for state organizations interested in getting more involved in this issue. CLASP is a non-profit anti-poverty organization that works at national and state levels to advance policy solutions that work for low-income people. They share opportunities at the national level with state and local level organizations, helping them to make the most of federal opportunities to lift people out of poverty.

CLASP has many resources available for advocates. “Seizing New Policy Opportunities to Help Low-Income Mothers with Depression: Current Landscape, Innovations, and Next Steps” is a good place to start for state organizations interested in getting more involved in this area of work. It offers practical advice and policy recommendations for action at the state level to reform Medicaid policy to help mothers and young children. Its findings include the following.

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is charged with identifying preventive services that are worth federal investment, found that depression should be a high priority. This has many implications, including an opportunity for states to procure incentive funds if they make services available via Medicaid Expansion.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has provided states with a clear explanation with how they can use Medicaid to screen for maternal depression and treatment for children under the child’s Medicaid eligibility. This tool is useful for parents who are not eligible for coverage.
  • An overview of 3 expansion states (MN, CT, and OH) and one non-expansion state (VA) looks at how successfully they were taking advantage of those opportunities and identifies good policy decisions. The brief reports on specific innovations and insights for advocates.

CLASP coauthored a brief with CCF explaining how Medicaid expansion can help mothers get the care they need to treat maternal depression. Maternal depression is one of the most treatable mental health disorders. Extending Medicaid coverage to more low-income mothers would help increase screening, identification, and treatment of maternal depression—thereby promoting young children’s healthy development and family economic security. The brief “Medicaid Expansion Promotes Children’s Healthy Development and Family Success by Treating Maternal Depression” synthesizes research to make the case that maternal health and treatment matters to child development and education. It points out that cost is a big barrier to care and argues that if more states expanded Medicaid, they would lower that barrier and more mothers would gain access to maternal depression screening and treatment.

Olivia closed by inviting advocates to work with CLASP to combat the high prevalence of maternal depression. Advocates interested in accepting her invitation should email Stephanie Schmit (