Every pregnant and postpartum individual and infant deserves safe, equitable, and quality care, which includes ensuring their behavioral healthcare needs are met.

Exacerbated by COVID-19, Colorado is in the midst of a perinatal mental health crisis where suicide and accidental overdose are the leading causes of maternal mortality during pregnancy and through the first year postpartum. Nearly 80% of the state’s maternal deaths are preventable. (1)

​The Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health has identified a need to bridge gaps in perinatal behavioral healthcare for pregnant and postpartum people by embedding health care delivery system quality improvement initiatives within the meaningful connective tissue of a care coordination model that is fluid enough to meet the perinatal dyad wherever they are in the perinatal continuum of care.

When left untreated, behavioral health conditions and toxic stressors experienced by pregnant and postpartum people have devastating consequences for infants and children, for parents, and for society. There are many contributing factors that lead to poor maternal or child health outcomes, and while some of those factors are a mystery, or outside of our control- many more are known, preventable, treatable, and are things we can and should do something about. This is why OBH believes the IMPACT BH Program is so important- continuity of and access to pregnancy and postpartum behavioral health care is something every pregnant and birthing person in Colorado should have access to. We’re not there yet, but IMPACT BH is a step in the right direction.

Kallen Thornton, MSSW, LCSW

Manager of Gender Responsive Services - Office of Behavioral Health

The IMPACT (IMprove Perinatal Access, Coordination & Treatment) Behavioral Health program will establish an integrated perinatal behavioral health care network which spans prenatal, hospital, and postpartum care and improves screening, diagnosis, and treatment of perinatal behavioral health needs through community-derived strategies, including care navigation and increased social and peer support. For individuals experiencing substance use disorder, IMPACT Behavioral Health will expand and integrate medication-assisted treatment programs into perinatal care. 

With nearly $1 million in funding committed to this program and the recognition that Colorado’s rural birthing population is in dire need of behavioral health support and resources, IMPACT Behavioral Health will launch in Colorado’s western rural mountain region which has been severely impacted by the opioid epidemic and experienced a significant increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome over the past few years.  

Beginning with a pilot in Garfield County with plans for subsequent rollout in other counties in Health Services Region 12, the program will support behavioral health through the development and implementation of a perinatal behavioral health framework and associated set of coordinated, cross-sector behavioral health services, supports and information-sharing practices.  

The framework and associated set of services will be developed and implemented collaboratively by local partners with leadership and support from Colorado Perinatal Care Quality Collaborative (CPCQC), Illuminate Colorado, Colorado Hospital Association, and the CU Practice Innovation Program.

By 2023, IMPACT Behavioral Health will establish a standard of care, expanding across the state to additional regions identified as having gaps in perinatal behavioral health services, with the potential to positively impact the state’s nearly 60,000 new maternal-infant dyads each year. 

Want to learn more? Contact the CPCQC team at info@cpcqc.org.

(1) Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (2020). Colorado Maternal Mortality Prevention Program Legislative Report 2014–2016.

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