- Associated Press - Friday, October 7, 2016

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Being a stay-at-home mom left Sabrina Lambrecht feeling isolated.

Lambrecht, a mother of two sons in Columbia, was the executive director and founder of CoMo Cares, a not-for-profit organization that provided parents with clothes, diapers and other necessities, the Columbia Daily Tribune (http://bit.ly/2dP4D00 ) reported. The demand of operating a not-for-profit caused her to feel like she was not doing enough for her children, she said, and Lambrecht eventually left the organization to become a stay-at-home mom.

Lambrecht now runs a diaper bank and volunteers on the Columbia Jaycees and both of her sons’ school parent-teacher associations. Despite those efforts to connect with others, she still felt alone.

“Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t easy,” she said. “You’re really isolated. You lose your sense of identity.”

In February, Lambrecht entered the maternal mental health program at Lutheran Family and Children’s Services in Columbia to combat those feelings. The free program provides counseling to mothers suffering from depression, postpartum depression and other mental health disorders and gets funding from the Boone County Children’s Services Fund. Voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax in 2012 to establish the fund, which took in more than $6.6 million last year.

The Boone County Commission approved $73,736 of Children’s Services funds for Lutheran Family and Children’s Services in 2015, allowing the organization to start the maternal mental health program. By addressing mothers’ mental health needs, the organization hopes to serve their children as well.

Depression affects a mother’s ability to engage with her children, affecting the parent-child relationship, said Heather Wall, director of Lutheran Family and Children’s Services.

Mothers’ mental health disorders can affect their children’s behavioral or mental health, Wall said. Neglected children, for example, tend to act out for attention. Therapists show mothers, especially those suffering from postpartum depression, ways to bond with their children.

“A big goal of the program is to treat depression early on in mothers and try to mitigate the effects on the child,” said Kelly Wallis, director of Boone County Community Services, which oversees the Children’s Services fund.

Last week, the commission approved $23,613 in additional funding for the program. The program was running out of funds because of an unexpected demand, Wall said. Money from the Children’s Services fund covers most of the program’s expenses and Lutheran Family and Children’s Services covers leftover costs, Wall said.

The organization anticipated serving 45 mothers this year, but by mid-year, therapists had counseled 29 mothers, she said. To date, 42 mothers have been in the program and nine have received medications.

The extra money allows the organization to increase its maternal mental health staff from two part-time therapists to two full-time therapists. Each mother is given at least 10 counseling sessions spread out over two months, Wall said, but many mothers need sessions over a three- to four-month period.

The organization has received 67 referrals so far this year, Wall said, but some mothers have not followed through with services.

The program also covers co-pay fees for doctor visits and medications, if needed. Nine mothers are receiving medications and another two will begin a medication regimen next month.

Many mothers in the program have no access to health insurance. They often fall in what’s known as the health insurance gap, meaning their household income exceeds Medicaid eligibility limits, but they can’t access insurance through an employer or afford it on their own.

Adults with children qualify for Medicaid in Missouri. Parents in a four-person household, for example, cannot exceed a monthly income of $353 to be eligible.

The program also offers family counseling.

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com

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