Arizona Perinatal Psychiatry Access Line to open June 1

May 18, 2023

A new help line for health care providers aims to improve physical and behavioral health outcomes for pregnant and postpartum persons and their babies and families.


Psychiatrists from the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson are preparing to launch a new service for Arizona health care providers who care for pregnant and postpartum persons experiencing mental health and substance use conditions.

Funded through a $1.6 million grant from Arizona Health Care Cost Containment Systems, the Arizona Perinatal Psychiatry Access Line, or APAL, scheduled to open in June, will offer health care providers free consultations on how to treat pregnant and postpartum persons. The project comes amid rising rates of mental illnesses and maternal mortality and a shortage of psychiatric providers trained to care for pregnant and postpartum individuals.

An online press conference about the access line will be held May 25 at 9 a.m. via Zoom. Speakers include:

  • Saira Kalia, MD – Co-Director, Arizona Perinatal Psychiatry Access Line
  • Kathryn Emerick, MD – Co-Director, Arizona Perinatal Psychiatry Access Line
  • Catherine "Kate" Dobler, MEd, BS, CPM, IMH-E – Project Manager, PPW-PLT, Division of Grants and Innovation, AHCCCS
  • Rachael Salley, MPH – Maternal Child Health/EPSDT Manager, AHCCCS
  • Michelle Lacy, MD – Executive Director of Women’s Health Innovations of Arizona
  • Heidi Christensen, MSW – Arizona Department of Health Services
  • Andrew Rubenstein, MD, FACOG – Co-chair of AZ Dept of Health Services Maternal Mortality Review Committee 
  • Alicia Allen, PhD, MPH, RENEW Research Team, Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson

APAL’s toll-free number, 1-888-290-1336, will go live June 1. It will be open Monday through Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. through December 2023, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting in January 2024. Health care providers will be connected to a perinatal psychiatrist within minutes to discuss their patient’s case and how to provide the best care.

“The new access line will be a resource for frontline health care providers who may lack the training or tools needed to confidently and safely address the mental health needs of their patients,” said Saira Kalia, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and director of APAL. “Perinatal mental health is a critical issue that affects the health and well-being of birthing persons, children and families. APAL aims to provide health care professionals with the resources they need to effectively manage perinatal mental health disorders and improve outcomes for this vulnerable population in our state.”

APAL organizers will collect data on trends of perinatal mental illness in Arizona in order to inform state and federal health care systems about the best models for care delivery. 

“The lack of data on maternal mental health is a barrier and we are working to shift that paradigm,” Dr. Kalia said.

APAL co-director and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Kathryn Emerick, MD, said 1 in 5 pregnant people suffer from a mental health condition during and up to one year after pregnancy.

“Perinatal mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders are the most common complications of pregnancy and are preventable causes of maternal, fetal and infant illness and death,” Dr. Emerick said. “We can and must treat these conditions to save lives.”

“It is thrilling that AHCCCS is supporting this undertaking,” said Jordan F. Karp, MD, professor and chair of the college’s Department of Psychiatry. “The work Drs. Kalia and Emerick are doing to launch this line and serve providers and the mental health needs of Arizona’s perinatal patients is awe-inspiring. Because pregnant people see a frontline health care provider regularly throughout a typical pregnancy, there will be ample opportunities for patients to be screened for mental health conditions. This service is a crucial addition to Arizona’s maternal health care landscape.”

APAL is a partnership between UArizona Health Sciences, the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, Banner – University Medicine, and the AHCCCS. For more information, visit


Jamie Manser
Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson