Dr. Jennie Bever, PhD, IBCLC, Dr. Cara English, DBH, and Heidi Christensen, MSW

Presentation: Policies, Leadership, and Funding - Oh, My! How We are Working Together to Improve Perinatal Care Access and Integration in Arizona

Presentation Description:

This presentation shares the results of cross-agency and cross-sector collaboration to improve maternal health, including access to perinatal specialty mental health care and future directions for a small group of concerned mothers.

The State of Arizona launched a series of initiatives beginning or enhanced in 2019 to improve maternal health outcomes for persons of reproductive age in the State, including a grant-funded initiative to strengthen Arizona’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee and to fund prevention efforts. Input from individuals with lived experience, healthcare professionals specializing in serving this population, and community health workers such as peer support professionals, patient advocates, and BIPOC advocacy organizations have been the key to our momentum and successes. Ultimately, a legion of volunteers (primarily mothers) across the state have co-designed improvements that are advancing the system’s ability to meet the needs in close partnership with the state Department of Health and state Medicaid agency.

The learnings and outcomes through these evolving statewide efforts will contribute to the efforts of other communities working to reduce adverse maternal health outcomes. Lessons learned, and best practices in capacity building and sustainability will be shared.

Presenter Bios:

Dr. Jennie Bever, PhD, IBCLC

Dr. Jennie Bever's interest in caring for moms and babies began when her first child was born while Jennie was still in graduate school. Despite much knowledge and dedication, she struggled to nurse her baby. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) was able to help Jennie successfully breastfeed her son. Due to this experience, Jennie grew an intense desire to help other moms and babies reach their breastfeeding goals. After finishing her PhD, Dr. Bever completed a rigorous didactic and clinical training course through the University of California, San Diego Lactation Consultant Training Program. She became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in 2009. Dr. Bever is also a breastfeeding researcher and holds an appointment as an Adjunct Assistant Research Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University.

Dr. Bever and her husband have four rambunctious children. When she's not chasing little ones, Dr. Bever enjoys gardening, music, and spending way too much time on social media.

Dr. Cara English, DBH

Cara English is the Chief Executive Officer of Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies (CGI) and Founder of Terra’s Tribe, a maternal mental health advocacy organization in Phoenix, Arizona. Cara spearheaded a perinatal behavioral health integration project at Willow Birth Center from 2016-2020 that received international acclaim through publication of outcomes in the International Journal of Integrated Care. Dr. English served as Vice-President of the Postpartum Support International - Arizona Chapter Founding Board of Directors, and co-chaired the Education and Legislative Advocacy Committees. She currently serves on the Maternal Mortality Review Program and the Maternal Health Taskforce for the State of Arizona. She served as one of three Arizonan 2020 Mom Nonprofit Policy Fellows in 2021. For her work to establish Cummings Graduate Institute, Cara was awarded the Psyche Award from the Nicholas & Dorothy Cummings Foundation in 2018, and is more recently the recipient of the 2022 Sierra Tucson Compassion Recognition for her work to improve perinatal mental health integration in Arizona.

Heidi Christensen, MSW

Heidi Christensen, MSW, is the Maternal Health Innovation Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services. For over 20 years, she has worked with pregnant and postpartum mothers and their children in various settings. She currently manages programming related to improving maternal health and preconception health.