The Fairfield County Community Foundation has provided $50,000, the second half of a two-year $100,000 grant, to Bridgeport Hospital’s Prenatal Care: Not Just for Babies program to screen Ob-Gyn clinic patients for depression and other emotional disorders, and provide counseling and medication management. The clinic is using the grant to employ a part-time psychiatric advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) to conduct the screenings and work with other clinic providers to develop treatment plans for patients.
“We see clinic patients in urgent need of psychiatric care but who are unlikely to seek help for themselves,” said Bridgeport Hospital Chairman of Psychiatry Charles Morgan, MD. “They will, however, come to the clinic to safeguard the life of their child. This is an opportunity to screen at-risk women and provide them with the treatment they desperately need to protect their health and the health of their baby.”
The clinic serves low-income women from Bridgeport and surrounding communities. Each month, approximately 40 women who come for prenatal care are diagnosed with untreated psychiatric problems, according to Dr. Morgan. They might be depressed, have a problem with substance abuse or other psychiatric disorders. They may have been treated in the past or taken medication but stopped treatment when they discovered they were pregnant.
“This program allows us to provide services to women who are not seeking mental health care elsewhere or have discontinued their care or medication,” Dr. Morgan added.
Women are screened when they come to the clinic for their first prenatal visit, using an established screening procedure, Dr. Morgan explained. The APRN evaluates, follows up and treats or refers patients to appropriate services for any psychosocial issues identified. The APRN also educates women about positive mental health practices and issues surrounding medication and pregnancy to dispel concerns among women who would benefit from medication.