UTHealth Houston has received a one-year grant from the Episcopal Health Foundation to fund additional services and resources for the HOPE (Home Outreach for Parent Education) program. Its overall mission is simple — to help mothers during their often-silent battle with postpartum depression.
“We know that COVID exacerbated feelings of depression and isolation for many of us, but it particularly hit minority and low-income mothers the hardest,” said Rhonda Conyers, licensed clinical social worker and project leader. “This is why HOPE is especially important today.”
Program participants are identified through a questionnaire, referred to as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, offered at select appointments at UT Physicians clinics. UT Physicians is the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston.
Those who indicate any risk of the disease receive a referral for assistance through HOPE’s mobile unit. Social workers will then conduct between four and six home visits with interested families to teach healthy coping strategies, provide breastfeeding support, as well as discuss outside resources such as long-term therapy. The additional funding will also address social needs, such as food insecurity, and assist with continuity of care.
Once the initial meetings have concluded, families are followed up at 30 and 90 days.
As a new mother in 2017, Christy Nayes Bowen described the help she received from HOPE as invaluable.
“I’m such a prideful person, but I knew that I didn’t know what to do and I needed help,” she said. “Thanks to Rhonda and her initiative, I learned coping strategies, how to prioritize, and most importantly, I was able to realize what a gift being a mom actually is.”
Conyers says that stories like Bowen’s are exactly why she chose a career path in maternal outreach and hopes to make this program a standard of care across all UT Physicians women’s health and pediatric clinics.
“I think we sometimes have a skewed perception of what the postpartum period is actually like. We’ve seen these patients in their most vulnerable moments and it truly makes you understand how much support mothers need,” she said.