Otten bill to expand early intervention services passes House

HARRISBURG, April 10 – State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten’s bill to provide early intervention services to children born to mothers struggling with postpartum depression passed the Pennsylvania House today.

House Bill 1593 would expand services to children from birth through two years with mothers diagnosed with or at high risk for postpartum depression, ensuring that these vulnerable children and their families have access to the support they need. Early intervention services can reduce a family’s sources of stress and encourage healthy relationships among children, families and caregivers. Otten, D-Chester, introduced the legislation with a co-prime sponsor, state Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., who chairs the PA House Children and Youth Committee.

“Welcoming a new baby should be a joyous time for a family,” Otten said. “And yet the reality is that a new baby can also mean sleepless days and nights, isolation from friendships, anxiety about stretched finances or missed career opportunities, and physical, hormonal changes that trigger postpartum depression.”

“There’s an abundance of research that shows that a child’s development in the earliest years of their life is significantly impacted by the tenor of their earliest formative relationships with their family and loved ones,” Bullock said. “By supporting children and mothers throughout this delicate time and critical stage, we can nurture healthy growth and development, and ensure better outcomes for children and families. Every child in the commonwealth deserves a healthy and supportive environment where they can thrive and build strong foundations that will serve them a lifetime.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, untreated postpartum depression can hurt a parent’s ability to bond with and care for their baby and lead to discontinued breastfeeding, family dysfunction and an increased risk of child abuse and neglect. Meanwhile, the efficacy of early intervention is well-documented among service providers and families, Otten said, and the help deters developmental delays and nurtures healthy growth and development.

“Given the prevalence of postpartum depression and the importance of the earliest months and years in a child’s development, expanding eligibility for these services is a lifeline for children and families in need of support,” Otten said. “I thank my colleagues in the House for their support, and I hope that the bill finds quick traction in the Senate.”