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Happy 20th Birthday PHA!

Posted: September 25, 2017 at 7:24 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Author: Bethany Warren, LCSW & Board President

Happy 20th Birthday to PHA! As I set out to write this piece and pay tribute to our history, our founding members and all of the board members, volunteers and families who have tirelessly worked to support and sustain our organization, I was so lucky to sit down with several of our founding members to learn about our history.  I thank Dr. Janet Jaffe, Dr. Leslie Craig, and Dr. Kelly Boyd for their time (and excellent memories!) in helping me write this piece.

We started in 1996 when several clinicians in San Diego came together and recognized a significant need in our community.  Dr. Kelly Boyd, Susan Hickman, Dr. Leslie Craig and Dr. Adele Josepho all met informally to begin the conversation about the need for adequate screening, treatment and support for women and families dealing with Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders.  Each of these providers were treating women with PMADs and recognized a larger need in the community and by coming together, they tirelessly shared their visions and eventually created the organization we know and love today.

Jane Honnikman, who was the original founder and President of Postpartum Support International (PSI) flew down on her private plane (!) to attend the original PHA founder meeting in the conference room at Sharp Mesa Vista in 1997.  She helped guide the group and gave ideas on how to organize a non-profit organization, steps that she later published as a handbook for other states and regions.  Ideas were tossed around and details were ironed out – would we do a help line?  How would we rotate coverage?  Would somebody carry a beeper?  Would we provide phone counseling or referrals only? What is our scope and mission?

One of the first steps was to apply for non-profit status and it was decided we should become a sister organization of a larger organization that had already been created rather than reinvent the wheel.  Dr. Shoshana Bennett had started PHA north of us so our first brochure was actually from PHA of Central California!  We applied for a 5031c in 1998 and officially became a non-profit organization of our own then, with the official founding members being: Dr. Leslie Craig, Dr. Kelly Boyd, Dr. Martha Diamond, Dr. Janet Jaffe, Dr. Adele Josepho, and Dr. Robert Hickman, Susan’s Hickman’s husband as we tragically lost Susan just prior to this initial process of founding PHA.  Susan’s vital legacy in this community lives on through a research award granted every year through PSI in her name.  Dr. Kelly Boyd was the first President of PHA and has since founded a Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance (PPHA) in Austin, Texas!

The beginning focus of PHA was one of education, raising awareness of PMADs to the community and the grass roots efforts of reaching out to affected families began.  The board members started by attending health fairs, manning a PHA booth, and talking to anyone who would listen about Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in efforts of destigmatizing this issue.  They would go to doctor’s offices, meet with social workers around the community and pound the pavement, trying to reach anyone in the community who had an impact in this field.  They reached out to OB’s offices to promote screening for PMADs and to educate the doctors about PHA, and educated the community about the postpartum group that Susan Hickman had started at Sharp Mesa Vista.  The board could envision the widespread potential impact of this small organization and started doing fundraisers to sustain the mission.

Eventually PHA hosted an educational conference as well, which was well attended and further solidified PHA as an expert in this community.  Our organization continued to offer educational opportunities and trainings regularly after that. Our Warmline started at the very beginning with the board members building a small resource list, answering the calls themselves and eventually it grew to what it is now, with a rotating list of volunteers who keep it sustained by answering the phone line and emails.  We are tremendously grateful to for all that they provide our community.  It’s inspiring to see that our organization’s mission and vision has remained largely the same, though our scope has broadened and our membership has grown significantly over the years.  It’s wonderful to say that we are still very much a grassroots organization on the front line of providing education, spreading awareness and serving the community of women and families affected by PMADs.

As we look back at these last 20 years, I am awestruck.  I am profoundly grateful for our journey, and so humbled that we have continued to thrive as a small non-profit that runs entirely on donations, volunteers and the occasional grant.  Words can never express the full gratitude for every man and woman that has contributed to this organization because without everyone involved, we simply would not be able to do what we do so well.

We must pay tribute to the original founding members and thank them for their tremendous vision: Dr. Leslie Craig, Dr. Kelly Boyd, Dr. Martha Diamond, Dr. Janet Jaffe, Dr. Adele Josepho, and Dr. Robert Hickman.  Your legacies live on today as we continue to hold up the original mission and values of this important organization. We would also like to honor all of the prior Presidents who came before me: Dr. Kelly Boyd, Dr. Leslie Craig, Dr. Christine Bernet, Mary Obata, MFT, Jessica Heldman, Holly Herring, Gretchen Pound, Ph.D, Sharon Jones, Amber Rukaj, MA, MFT, and Gretchen Mallios, LCSW.  I am incredibly honored to share this title with you and walk in your footsteps.  I also give profound gratitude to the countless board members as well who have given their valuable time, energy and ideas to this organization on a volunteer basis.  We recognize that board members serve out of a shared passion for these women and families affected by PMADs and also somehow magically fit these extra duties into already very busy lives; please know that your efforts are recognized and incredibly valued. I also want to thank all of our precious volunteers over these 20 years, without whom this organization simply could not run.  It is with your dedication and service that PHA continues to be able to serve this community, and I humbly voice my sincere appreciation for each and every one of you for everything that you’ve done for PHA and these families.  Thank you.