How to Address Behavioral Health and Substance Use in Pregnancy

Blog | June 18, 2019


On June 6, the NCIOM Task Force on Perinatal System of Care convened to discuss the impact of substance use on the health of expectant mothers and their babies.


Project Director Robert Kurzydlowski provided a brief introduction, followed by a presentation on the statewide perspective from Melissa Godwin, clinical assistant professor at the UNC School of Social Work. Melinda Ramage, a family nurse practitioner at MAHEC, then followed up with the local perspective.

Melissa Godwin, a white woman with dark hair in a pink shirt, speaks in front of a screen in a conference room
Melissa Godwin
Melinda Ramage, a white woman with grey hair in a black cardigan, gestures toward a screen of photos in a conference room
Melinda Ramage

Michelle McGrath and Elaine Holeman, nursing director and lead maternity nurse at Union County Government, respectively, gave a presentation on maternity care coordination.


After lunch, the task force heard from a consumer who spoke about her struggles with depression and anxiety throughout her pregnancy and post-partum. She shed light on the difficulties and barriers of obtaining (and continuity of) behavioral health care post-partum, specifically in terms of her provider network changing multiple times in a few years. She also emphasized the impact the lack of access to behavioral treatment has on the entire family, not just the mother.


Mary C. Kimmel, medical director of NC Maternal Mental Health MATTERS and the Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Unit at UNC, then presented on perinatal mental health, followed by Hannah Rackers, a research instructor at UNC, who talked about NC Maternal Mental Health MATTERS (Making Access to Treatment, Evaluation, Resources & Screening Better).


The group then had a lively discussion about future directions and considerations of behavioral health among pregnant patients.

A black woman in chartreuse speaks expressively as a white woman in a green sweater listens intently next to her and several people look on from the background

To round out the day, Randi Culp Stewart, assistant director of the UNCG Genetic Counseling Program, provided a specialist access perspective on genetic counseling.


Click here to see all of the presentations from this meeting.


The next meeting of the Perinatal System of Care task force will be on June 24.