First 5 San Diego, the region’s primary organization for improving the lives of children ages zero through five, released a new report on the work they have been supporting focusing on Maternal Mental Health since 2013. A child’s healthy development is rooted in their earliest relationships and if a mother is experiencing depression, it will put her child at an increased risk for depression and developmental delays. As many as 12% of all pregnant or post-partum women experience depression which led First 5 San Diego to fund the Maternal Depression Program, also known in the community as the Maternal Services Project, a pilot program of Healthy Development Services. This pilot serves mothers experiencing mild to moderate depression who have children ages birth through five years old.

“As a mother of three children, I can understand how difficult it is to ask for help when you are experiencing depression and trying to care for your small children,” said Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar of the First 5 Commission of San Diego. “Together, we can eliminate the stigma that prevents mothers from seeking treatment by talking about depression and integrating mental health care as part of our physical health care.”

The Maternal Services Project has successfully normalized screening for depression at pediatric well-child visits and pediatric developmental services. Once mothers who are eligible for the program are identified the program’s dedicated care coordinator works with them to help identify key treatment areas needed. The care coordinator works with mothers to address cultural, emotional, and practical barriers to treatment that might include childcare, transportation, limited time and competing interests. The population that has been served most through this program is Hispanic/Latina at 84%.

“Over the years, First 5 San Diego has been a key contributor to improving the system of care for our youngest children. By working collaboratively with our community partners we have been able to focus on a very important need that emerged. The goal is to share the learning from this effort and look at the future opportunities to expand this work throughout San Diego County,” shared Alethea Arguilez, Executive Director of First 5 San Diego. “We are happy to report that mothers are clearly benefitting from this project. According to our data collected, mothers’ depression scores decreased by over 62%. Similarly, mothers’ total anxiety as measured by the Beck Anxiety Inventory decreased by nearly 59%.”

Since the implementation of the Maternal Services Project in July 2013, program partners have benefitted from a dynamic and organic learning process. First 5 San Diego created an environment that promoted on-going quality improvement and flexibility to develop new approaches and processes to better meet the needs of mothers and their children in the program. To read the full report or find out more please visit Inquiries related to this project can be directed to Jennifer Kennedy, MPA, Sr. Project Specialist for Healthy Development Services, Countywide Coordination and Support and the American Academy of Pediatrics, California Chapter 3 at (619) 961-2374 or