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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: July 18, 2023 12:07 PM
From: Representative Danielle Friel Otten and Rep. Donna Bullock
To: All House members
Subject: Expanding Early Intervention Services for Postpartum Depression and Adverse Childhood Experiences
Research from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child has demonstrated that responsive, supportive relationships are fundamentally important to children’s development and their ability to build resilience throughout childhood and into adulthood. Conversely, children who grow up in an environment of mental illness, substance abuse, trauma, or other extreme sources of stress are at higher risk for developmental delays and long-lasting impacts on their physical and mental health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that postpartum depression can lead to increased incidents of child abuse and neglect and adverse effects on a child’s early brain development. And we know that children who experience Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction are at higher long-term risk for poor academic achievement, substance use, and even health impacts like heart disease and diabetes.
We can prevent and counteract these poor outcomes through Early Intervention services. Pennsylvania’s Early Intervention program currently provides supports and services to families with children from birth to age five with developmental delays and disabilities. The importance of early intervention is well established, as these services help to ameliorate delays and challenges, nurture healthy growth and development, and ensure better outcomes for children and their families. Early Intervention services can also serve as a protective factor against further trauma, abuse, and neglect.
Our legislation would expand access to Early Intervention services to children born to mothers at high-risk for or diagnosed with postpartum depression and children who have experienced ACEs. Eligibility for Early Intervention services would ensure that these children and their families have access to services already available in every county in Pennsylvania that provide support, reduce families’ sources of stress, and facilitate collaborative, responsive relationships between children, families, and caregivers.
Given the prevalence of postpartum depression and childhood trauma and the importance of the earliest months and years in a child’s development, expanding eligibility for Early Intervention services would be a lifeline for children and families in need of support. Please join us in co-sponsoring this much-needed legislation.

Introduced as HB1593