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AJLI Public Policy & Advocacy Award

At the 93rd Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) Conference on April 18, 2015, AJLI awarded its inaugural Public Policy and Advocacy Award to the Junior Leagues of California State Public Affairs Committee (CalSPAC) for their collective work on maternal mental health. In 2009, CalSPAC learned about maternal mental health disorders through its “There Ought to Be a Law” contest. Junior League of Los Angeles (JLLA) Provisional Britt Bowe, submitted the winning idea to CalSPAC’s contest after reading an article in Self Magazine about an Olympic athlete whose twin sister tragically lost her life due to an untreated maternal mental health disorder. 


CalSPAC utilized community advocacy to influence public opinion and create a grassroots public education campaign. In 2010, CalSPAC worked to develop awareness materials and a social media campaign. Over three years, CalSPAC introduced one bill and two resolutions, resulting in ACR 105 (Nava)(Chaptered 2010) - declaring every May Perinatal Depression Awareness month in California; ACR 53 (Hernandez)(Chaptered 2011) - urges health care stakeholders to invest resources to educate women about perinatal depression risk factors and triggers. In 2011, the California Maternal Mental Health Collaborative was created and is now a separate nonprofit. CalSPAC supported the Collaborative’s sponsored ACR 148 (Lowenthal)(Chaptered 2014), creating the State Commission on the Status of Maternal Mental Health Care.






The Award is shared by many fearless Junior League leaders. Past CalSPAC Co-Chair Julie Elginer spearheaded ACR 105 and the experience proved pivotal in her doctoral dissertation and in her role as an Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management at UCLA. Past CalSPAC Co-Chair Joy Burkhard drafted ACR 53 and ACR 148, founded the California Maternal Mental Health Collaborative, hosts a national coalition and is starting a state-wide commission. JLLA members September Hill and Tasha Koumaris, helped create the “Speak Up When You’re Down” awareness campaign. JLSF Advocacy member Audrey Symes was instrumental in the development of a national social media campaign. 2014-2015 CalSPAC Co-Chair Caroline Bruister was Nava’s staffer, then decided to join JLSB/JLSF due to her experience with CalSPAC’s work. Past CalSPAC Co-Chair September Hill was inspired by CalSPAC’s work as an assistant and has since held every leadership placement within the Public Policy Council, including Director and CalSPAC Co-Chair. 


“The Junior League and CalSPAC provide members the training they need to conduct advocacy with skill on behalf of our community partners, our focus issues and our mission. The passion for building better communities is what has kept me active in the League the past seven years and excited about the difference a small group of committed citizens can do through collective advocacy efforts,” said September Hill. 


As Dr. Elginer shared, “The Junior League has a 114-year history of tackling some of society’s most vexing problems. This is an example of the power of strategic advocacy to achieve monumental, issue based community impact. Transformational change is possible.”


About the California Maternal Mental Health Collaborative & the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health

The CMMHC is a separate 501c3 non-profit organization that was formed as a result of the bill CalSPAC sponsored in 2009, Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 105. The organization has changed its name to Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health, to reflect its work nationally and its core project, the 2020 Mom Project, which the CMMHC sets forth a pathway for change. The CMMHC hosts the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health and is the organization who is sponsoring the work of the new California Commission on the Status of Maternal Mental Health Care. 

Learn more at

CalSPAC wins AJLI Public Policy & Advocacy Award
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