Clark gears up federal machinery on postpartum depression treatment

In June, the Baker administration mandated postpartum depression screening for MassHealth patients, making it one of only a handful of states that screen Medicaid recipients for the condition.

But what the Commonwealth giveth, it can taketh away. Several weeks after Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito shocked community advocates and health care professionals with the MassHealth decision, Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed $200,000 in fiscal 2016 spending for a postpartum depression screening pilot program in Holyoke, Lynn, Jamaica Plain, and Worcester.

The Baker administration may have reckoned that many women in the four communities would be identified and treated under the new MassHealth screening regime. But it put administration officials in the awkward position of sending out conflicting signals on postpartum depression treatment and research.

Enter US Rep. Katherine Clark. This week, the Massachusetts Democrat parachuted in with the “Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act,” which would appropriate $5 million per year for fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for programs designed to identify and treat the condition.

Clark recruited Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican who represents a suburban Philadelphia congressional district, to co-sponsor the bill. Costello, a first-term congressman, is a relatively new lawmaker like Clark who is committed to breaking DC deadlock. (Note the purple tie.)

“Politics is the art of persuasion and getting people to move to your position,” Costello told Red Alert Politics before his November 2014 election victory. “If you are not open-minded, and you are not looking to persuade people in a respectful way then all you are doing is being a talking head. If I wanted to be a talking head, I’d be in a different profession.”

Team Clark-Costello also secured the support of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association. The national obstetricians and gynecologists association’s support was an especially good get as the group only recently signaled measured support for screening efforts.

Early detection and treatment strategies have been difficult to implement: Many doctors were reluctant to screen women who might be suffering from postpartum depression since they were unsure of how to treat depression in pregnant and postpartum women.

Federal action on postpartum depression has only begun to ramp up in the past several years. The Affordable Care Act contains provisions to promote research and related programs. But it’s anyone’s guess what the consensus-averse Republican House will do with a bill that would send federal funds monies to states to further the goals of Obamacare.

Until very recently, postpartum depression was largely unknown and widely misunderstood. Indeed, postpartum depression runs along a spectrum that ranges from mild to severe. Most cases respond to medication or talk therapy. Yet, it was the rare but extreme cases of mothers killing themselves or their children that riveted the public.

Working on postpartum depression grant funding with a fellow junior colleague may not be on a par with saving the American financial system from collapse. But it is another skillful move for a lawmaker like Clark, who is trying to dent a political culture obsessed with obstruction over compromise.

Plus, Clark’s legislation might wind up producing a few hundred thousand dollars for future treatment and research in the Bay State. As Peter Ubertaccio, a Stonehill College political science professor, recently told CommonWealth, Clark “is really trying to work across the aisle, and to do that you are going to start with smaller, more pragmatic bills.”

GABRIELLE GURLEY

 

BEACON HILL

The attorney general’s office rules that a Fitchburg city councilor violated the state’s Open Meeting Law by sending an email to his fellow councilors regarding an upcoming meeting agenda item. (Telegram & Gazette)

More details emerge on the grim life of a 7-year-old Hardwick boy whose father faces various abuse charges and whose case has renewed serious questions about the state’s Department of Children and Families. (Boston Globe)

Jeff Jacoby makes the case that we already have a pretty graduated state income tax. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A compensation review commission is recommending an 11 percent raise for Boston city councilors, which would bring their pay to $97,000 a year — but City Council president Bill Linehan says it’s not enough. (Boston Globe)

Danvers Fire Chief Kevin Farrell is placed on administrative leave, but officials refuse to say why. (Salem News)

Milton voters will be asked to approve changes in town governance that would expand the Board of Selectmen from three to five members and create a strong town administrator position. (Patriot Ledger)

Lowell city councilors say they are reluctant to participate in a regional emergency dispatch center, fearing the cost savings are not worth the risk. (The Sun)

Fall River has received a $2.1 million SAFER grant from the Department of Homeland Security that will allow the city to rehire 10 firefighters that were laid off after the expiration of a previous grant. (Herald News)

OLYMPICS

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says he thinks the USOC “panicked that I wouldn’t sign the document.” (Greater Boston) As the Globe reports, Walsh had earlier committed in a “joinder agreement” with the USOC to sign the host city agreement spelled out by the International Olympic Committee.

IOC president Thomas Bach says Boston is to blame for the collapse of the Olympic bid. (Associated Press) CommonWealth‘s Michael Jonas tells Boston Neighborhood News that the top-down, closed-door approach of the IOC and USOC collided with the open process expected in a democratic society.

Some Olympics opponents say they’ll continue flexing their muscles to make sure development projects in Boston aren’t planned and approved without an inclusive process. (Boston Herald) Boston city councilors Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley are both praising activists for making their voices heard in the Olympics debate, leading the Herald to ask whether they could be eyeing mayoral runs. (Both deny it.)

In Dorchester’s Harambee Park, the Olympic failure is seen as a missed opportunity. (WBUR)

CASINOS

Attorney General Maura Healey says Wynn Resorts plays by a different set of rules than other developers, but she has some of her facts wrong. (CommonWealth)

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone backs Healey, saying she’s right to intervene in the approval process for the proposed Wynn casino in Everett. (CommonWealth)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

San Francisco starts using a special splash-back paint that is designed to deter public urination. Really. (Governing)

ELECTIONS

Hillary Clinton answers questions at a town meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire, but not the one asking her position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Boston Globe)

Facebook has doubled its government and politics team and is working with candidates up and down the ballot to increase the ubiquitous social media site’s impact on the 2016 elections and boost its bottom line. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

MIT is proposing a massive $1.2 billion development project in Kendall Square that would include academic facilities and student housing, but also private business and non-MIT housing. (Boston Globe)

Last month was the strongest June for home sales in the state in 10 years. (Boston Herald)

Microsoft begins offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 operating system, that includes a return to the familiar “Start” button for customers who have Windows 7 or the dreaded Windows 8. (New York Times)

Gloucester boat designer Susanne Altenberger develops a “boat in a crate” for the US Navy, a craft that can be built by virtually anyone anywhere and shipped in a 40-foot crate. (Gloucester Times)

The New York Times has an interactive feature to show consumers how many times their personal information, emails, and credit cards have been hacked in security breaches over the last several years.

HEALTH CARE

A bill filed by Sen. John Keenan of Quincy would allow patients to request partial filling of prescription painkillers at lower co-pays in an effort to reduce opiate abuse. (State House News Service)

TRANSPORTATION

State Police closed a section of I-495 near Lawrence after a chunk of the elevated highway gave way, leaving a six-inch hole. (Eagle-Tribune)

Renovations to the Longfellow Bridge that joins Boston and Cambridge will take two years longer than originally scheduled, state officials say. (Boston Globe)

House and Senate Republicans have agreed on a stop-gap measure to pay for federally funded road projects that would have run out of money on Friday. (U.S. News & World Report)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Fall River officials joined environmental advocates in urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would lift the cap on net metering that they say is retarding the increased use of solar energy. (Herald News)

The Department of Conservation and Recreation has purchased 600 acres of environmentally sensitive land in Lakeville and Freetown to preserve open space. (Standard-Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Gerald Jones, the black Worcester man who was beaten in his jail cell by a white officer, is receiving a $220,000 settlement from the city. (Telegram & Gazette)

MEDIA

The number of American newsroom jobs fell 10 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, according to US Census data. (Nieman Journalism Lab)

SPORTS

Say it ain’t so, Tom. (New York Times)