UPMC Health Plan


Bill Ries
UPMC Health Plan


UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care Receives $3.76M PCORI Award to Improve Digital and In-Person Access to Behavioral Health Care for Moms on Medicaid

Project includes focus on Black women to further explore impact of social influences on health

Pittsburgh (Dec. 22, 2020) – The UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care secured a $3.76M award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to reduce barriers to critical behavioral health services for women both during and after pregnancy.

“Postpartum behavioral health screenings and services are only useful if they are accessible and delivered in ways that women will fully utilize them,” said Diane Holder, President and CEO, UPMC Health Plan. ”We will use these PCORI funds to enhance our research on how to best structure both in-person services and digital tools to ensure they are relevant and user-friendly to mothers covered by Medicaid so they can receive the behavioral health care they need.”

The roughly 900-member research project will recruit primarily Black and White women. Up to 40 percent of all low-income and Black women experience perinatal depression and/or anxiety–more than double the national rate of 20 percent, according to existing research.1,2,3,4

“These statistics are startling and serious. Pregnant women and new mothers need access to the full spectrum of behavioral health services, including depression and anxiety screening, counseling, and referrals to community resources. Yet many women—especially women of color—do not receive the services they need,” said Ellen Beckjord, PhD, MPH, Associate Vice President, Population Health and Clinical Transformation for UPMC Health Plan and lead investigator on the study.

“Our project will explore multiple ways to increase access to support for all of our Medicaid members, including digital health coaches and innovative, user-friendly digital tools.”

The addition of Brown Mamas, a support community for Black mothers, as well as other community organizations to the study team, will help further ensure that the research maintains ongoing relevance and stakeholder inclusivity to better understand and address gaps in health care faced by Black mothers.

The project will explore three approaches in behavioral health care delivery: The current “standard of care,” which is connecting pregnancy and postpartum members to community behavioral health providers; using RxWell, a digital tool to access evidence-based behavioral health education and self-management skills; and using RxWell with the support of a digital health coach. RxWell is UPMC Health Plan’s mobile app that offers clinically developed, evidence-based content; self-guided exercises; and other tools to support things like self-monitoring and goal setting to help members manage stress, anxiety, and depression and reach their health-related goals.

“We hope to learn the right combination of supports and services that work best in treating perinatal depression and anxiety, especially at a time when new mothers are most vulnerable to these conditions,” said Beckjord. “Through RxWell, we also seek to further unlock the potential of digital-based tools to maximize access to high-quality behavioral health care for UPMC for You members.”


About UPMC

A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $500 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside among the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to UPMC.com.


PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health care decisions. For more information about PCORI’s funding, visit pcori.org.

About UPMC Insurance Services

Serving more than 3.9 million members, UPMC Insurance Services is owned and operated by UPMC, a world-renowned health care provider and insurer based in Pittsburgh, Pa. UPMC Insurance Services includes commercial products from UPMC Health Plan for groups as well as individuals. Commercial products also include workers' compensation and employee assistance from nationally known Workpartners. Government products include Medicare Advantage (UPMC for Life); special needs plans for those eligible for Medicare and Medical Assistance (UPMC for Life Complete Care and UPMC Community HealthChoices); Medical Assistance (UPMC for You); and Children's Health Insurance Program (UPMC for Kids); and Community Care Behavioral Health, one of the nation's largest managed care behavioral health organizations. For more information, visit upmchealthplan.com.

About the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care

The UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care, housed within UPMC Insurance Services, translates the work of the UPMC Health Plan, Community Care Behavioral Health, and the organization’s additional integrated partner organizations into evidence-based practice and policy change for improving health care quality and efficiency and the overall health of the population. Many activities are conducted in UPMC’s unique payer-provider laboratory and supported through grants and contracts carried out in partnership with community organizations and government agencies. UPMC is a global health enterprise and one of the nation’s largest integrated health care delivery and financing systems. UPMC and UPMC Insurance Services recognize and embrace the value of collaboration in achieving an equitable, high-quality, and efficient health care system that meets the needs of diverse populations. For more information, visit upmchighvaluehealthcare.com.

  1. Alhusen JL, Gross D, Hayat MJ, Rose L, Sharps P. The role of mental health on maternal-fetal attachment in low-income women. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2012;41(6):E71-E81.
  2. Witt WP, DeLeire T, Hagen EW, et al. The prevalence and determinants of antepartum mental health problems among women in the USA: A nationally representative population-based study. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2010;13(5):425-437.
  3. Byrnes L. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 2018;14(7):507-513.
  4. Wisner KL, Sit DKY, McShea MC, et al. Onset timing, thoughts of self-harm, and diagnoses in postpartum women with screen-positive depression findings. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(5):490-498.