Grant creates lifesaving on-demand mental health resource for new moms and moms-to-be

Melissa Varner
August 03, 2022
Marie White with her newborn son.
Maria White Mebane with her newborn son.

Maria White Mebane knew she needed help when she couldn’t stop thinking that her baby would be better off without her.

“When I had those feelings, that was it,” Maria said. “I knew I couldn't do it by myself, and I couldn't trick anybody anymore.”

Maria feels lucky that she had the support of her husband and access to a psychiatrist. With medication and therapy, she was able to start recovering. “It took me a long time to admit that I struggled with mental illness, and that I had postpartum anxiety and depression,” Maria said. “There's a lot of shame and stigma still there.”

Maggie Talucci with her children.
Maggie Talucci with her children.

For Maggie Talucci, it took losing everything to finally be ready to accept help. After struggling with addiction most of her life, she lost her home and custody of her two children when she almost died from an overdose in 2017.

Now five years sober, she wants moms to know getting help is worth it.

“It's a beautiful thing to actually be here with my kids,” Maggie said. “Because of recovery, I now have primary custody. I get to enjoy their sports games, answer their questions and argue with my littlest, who is almost 9 going on 14. I've been able to show up for those things, and that feeling is better than any high.”

One in five

Mental health and substance abuse problems are the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth, says MUSC Health reproductive psychiatrist Constance Guille, M.D. One in five people will experience a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) or perinatal substance use disorder (PSUD) during pregnancy and the 12 months following pregnancy.

In one study of people suffering from postpartum depression, more than 80% had not reported their symptoms to any health professional. Often, they dismiss their feelings as normal or think they will go away on their own.

“I was almost three months postpartum until I saw my psychiatrist,” Maria said. “I thought, ‘Oh, it's just going to pass, this will pass,’ and then it got exponentially worse.”

She was also worried what people would think.

“I felt so guilty, and I felt so ashamed and terrified someone would take my son away from me,” Maria said. “Or gosh, if I admitted I had a mental health crisis would anyone ever want to hang out with me and their baby? Would they be afraid to leave their kid with me? All those scary thoughts of being ostracized.”

Seeking treatment is the best thing you can do, Maggie adds. “It's really the only thing that you can do.”

How it works

Dr. Constance Guille
Dr. Constance Guille

Guille created the Mom’s IMPACTT program at MUSC Health to help moms like Maria and Maggie. “A program like this is needed,” she said. “In our country and society, we do not do enough to support women and families and we see the result of that lack of support in the worsening of women’s mental health and children’s mental health.”

IMPACTT stands for Improving Access to Maternal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Care through Telemedicine and Tele-mentoring.

It’s a two-part program. First, it provides people who are pregnant or within 12 months postpartum with access to mental health care by phone at 843-792-MOMS (6667). Anyone who calls between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday will receive a call back within 30 minutes from a care coordinator. Calls made outside of this time will be contacted the next business day.

A care coordinator will assess the caller’s risks and connect them to a psychiatrist and/or therapist if needed. They can also provide resources or referrals for treatment depending on the patient’s needs.

The second part of the program is for providers who serve pregnant and postpartum people. Through the program, they can access training and real-time psychiatric consultations for their patients.

“Our program’s goal is to understand each woman’s unique needs and help her get access to the support and resources she needs for her and her family to flourish,” Guille said.

A grant makes it possible

A $895,229 grant from The Duke Endowment made it possible for the program to launch in May 2022.

The grant makes it free to confidentially connect with a care coordinator and to receive support and resources. Additional appointments may be charged to your insurance.

“Right now, we're using some of those funds to have providers see uninsured and underinsured patients and not have to bill for them,” Guille explained. “But that's probably going to be a long-term issue that we would want to have support for.”

By late July, the Mom’s IMPACTT program had helped 105 women.

“Thank you for caring about these women,” Guille said.

‘Literally life changing’

Maria and Maggie both came to hear about the Mom’s IMPACTT program through their work on behalf of others struggling with postpartum depression and substance use disorder. Maria was excited when Guille told her about it. “For there to be access for people right away – for a concerned partner or family member or the patient themselves, is literally life changing,” she said. “A program like this is vital. Every mother deserves that kind of support.”

Maggie wholeheartedly agrees. “If I knew that there was a program like Mom’s IMPACTT, I would have been reaching out because I think that so many feel like their only option is 12 steps,” she said. “Knowing that there are other options is really, really important.”

Both women urge new moms and moms-to-be to seek help if they need it.

“It’s the scariest thing to go through,” Maria said. “And you don't deserve it. You didn't sign up for it. I'm sorry that this happened. But there is support for you. And you can get well, and you deserve to not be in this kind of pain.”

“We can recover, we can go on and then we can help the next mother even if it's just sharing our story,” Maggie said. “If I were reading about a mother who made it to the other side of addiction, it might give me hope that I could too.”

Mom’s IMPACTT program

You can connect with a coordinator online or by calling 843-792-MOMS (6667).

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact the SCDMH 24/7/365 Statewide Crisis Response dispatcher at 833-364-2274, or call 911, or go to your nearest emergency room.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for anyone experiencing domestic violence.