MOMS win federal grant

Thanks to a federal grant, New Haven mothers will soon have access to more mental health services.

Last Friday, the Mental Health Outreach for Mothers Partnership, known as MOMS, received a five-year, $2.5 million federal grant to begin offering programs to support New Haven mothers’ mental health needs, according to a Jan. 20 press release. MOMS — a partnership coordinated by the Yale Department of Psychiatry, the city of New Haven and local mothers — has brought together several New Haven-based organizations to provide mental health support and resources for mothers in the community.

“Over the next five years, we will implement evidenced-based mental health interventions in community settings,” said Megan Smith, who founded MOMS in December 2010 and serves as assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. “This work would not be possible without the dedication and passion of our community partners.”

Smith said she decided to start MOMS after researching the mental health of mothers in New Haven. Her studies identified several sources of stress among New Haven mothers, including the threat of losing custody of their children and deportation, and found that poverty increases stress levels and can eventually lead to mental health conditions. Smith’s research also showed that only one third of New Haven mothers in need of mental health care were receiving it.

The MOMS partnership, she said, will focus on addressing these needs by providing support groups for mental health and other topics such as managing a limited budget. Once a month, for instance, mothers will be able to receive group counseling in the common room of the Stop & Shop supermarket on Whalley Ave., she said. Other MOMS projects include training mothers in mental health outreach to serve as “ambassadors” in the community, Smith added.

Jessica Sager, founder and CEO of MOMS partner All Our Kin, a New Haven-based nonprofit organization that focuses on expanding access to childcare and education, said MOMS is one example of how Yale is both a research institution and an activist in the community. Sager said All Our Kin will contribute to the MOMS partnership’s efforts by sharing its network of mothers whom other programs do not usually reach. All Our Kin will also train family childcare providers to be better prepared in supporting families who require mental health counseling, Sager added.

The New Haven MOMS Partnership consists of the Clifford Beers Child Guidance Clinic, New Haven Healthy Start, New Haven Health Department, All Our Kin, The Diaper Bank, Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families and the Housing Authority of New Haven.

The grant is one of ten annual grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, and the only one that focuses on mental heath.

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