Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals | Kathy Kliebert, Secretary

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Statewide Initiatives

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Behavioral Health

Goal: Assess and improve the behavioral health of Louisiana's pregnant women

Behavioral health issues such as alcohol and tobacco use, mental illness, and domestic violence are a concern in Louisiana for women of reproductive age. In addition to wanting women of reproductive age to be free of addiction and mental health complications, it is imperative that we address these health issues to avoid very serious health consequences for infants. Providing better access to preconception care, improving screening for tobacco and alcohol, and building a better network of treatment services are all vital steps to improving behavioral health of women in Louisiana.

Smoking is an important determinant of health status and a major contributor to prematurity and low birth weight. 22.1% of women in Louisiana age 18-44 reported smoking in 2009. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy particularly binge drinking can cause birth defects and mental retardation. Not only are a large proportion of Louisiana women smoking compared to the rest of the country, but this 22.1% is an increase from 20.1% in 2008. In Louisiana in 2009, 13.0% of women ages 18-44 reported binge drinking in the past month, compared to 15.7% overall in the U.S. In addition to substance use issues, women in Louisiana also suffer with mental health issues, including depression. Results of screening programs show the rates of clinically significant depression symptoms in pregnant and postpartum women are approximately 15-20% in Louisiana. Given the well-document effects of perinatal depression on maternal and infant/child outcomes, perinatal depression is a particularly urgent issue to address. Numerous studies correlate maternal depression with poor birth outcomes as well as poor infant and child health.


  • Institute statewide comprehensive behavioral health screening and brief intervention for pregnant women in Medicaid.
  • Collect adequate data on behavioral health needs of pregnant women in Medicaid.
  • Track behavioral health outcomes through data collection and monitoring.
  • Improve systems of referral and treatment for behavioral health.


Related Resource:

Office of Behavioral Health