Bipartisan legislation would provide support to healthcare professionals’ mental health
Congressmen Max Rose (NY-11), David McKinley (WV-01), Morgan Griffith (VA-09), Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Denver Riggleman (VA-05), Gil Cisneros (CA-39), and Fred Upton (MI-06) introduced the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, bipartisan legislation that aims to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among healthcare professionals.
Healthcare professionals have long experienced high levels of stress and burnout, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem. While helping their patients fight for their lives, many healthcare professionals are coping with their own trauma of losing patients and colleagues, and fear for their own health and safety.
The issue captured national attention when Dr. Lorna Breen, a physician at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physician & Surgeons working on the frontlines of the pandemic in New York City, died by suicide in Charlottesville after she’d gone to be with family.
This bill helps promote mental and behavioral health among those working on the frontlines of the pandemic. It also supports suicide and burnout prevention training in health professional training programs and increases awareness and education about suicide and mental health concerns among healthcare professionals.
“Battling the coronavirus pandemic has exacted a heavy mental toll on many, including our health care professionals,” Griffith said. “This has been a stressful time, and it is important that health care professionals know they have access to mental health resources when needed. I am proud to join my colleagues in this effort as one way to support our tremendous health care professionals.”
“The healthcare professionals on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic have been through hell to keep us safe—and the trauma they’ve experienced is real and cannot be ignored,” Rose said. “Dr. Breen was a hero in every sense of the word. She dedicated her life to saving others and answered the call while New York City was facing the darkest of days. This legislation will continue her life’s work and ensure her legacy is never forgotten. I’m proud to be joined by colleagues across the aisle and across the Capitol on this effort—because when it comes to having the backs of those who were there for us, it’s not about politics or party, it’s about doing the right thing.”
“Our healthcare workers have been on the frontlines battling the COVID-19 crisis since day one,” McKinley said. “We must ensure they have access to good-quality mental healthcare if and when they need it. By supporting our healthcare frontline workers, we can ensure they are staying mentally healthy while continuing to fight the coronavirus pandemic.”
“Our brave health care professionals have worked day and night during this pandemic,” Brindisi said. “Their sacrifice, bravery, and knowledge helped New York State flatten the curve and saved countless lives. This sacrifice takes a toll and Congress needs to step up for our health care heroes like they stepped up for us. This bipartisan legislation will address the burnout and mental health issues associated with this life-saving work during the pandemic and care for those who cared for us.”
“Our healthcare workers are worthy of our support and endless thanks,” Riggleman said. “Dr. Lorna Breen is a hero who did tremendous work helping to heal the wounded and care for the sick. This legislation will carry on Dr. Bremen’s legacy by providing the tools and services healthcare workers need to prevent burnout and address the mental health struggles they face. I am proud to sponsor this legislation that can help save lives.”
“Since day one of this pandemic, our healthcare workers have been fighting around the clock to keep our communities safe,” Cisneros said. “They deserve more than just our thanks. They deserve the resources and tools to help them cope with the stress, burnout, and trauma they’re facing during this crisis. I’m proud to join my Republican and Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate to introduce a bill that supports the mental health of our healthcare heroes and honor the legacy of Dr. Lorna Breen.”
“Our health care heroes in Michigan and across the nation are doing everything right now to take care of us – now it’s our turn to support them,” Upton said. “Health care workers on the front lines during the worst public health crisis in 100 years are under enormous pressure. Stress and strain from extended hours and watching suffering up close would impact any of us. This bipartisan legislation would help promote mental and behavioral health for our health care professionals, improving their overall well-being.”
“We’d like to thank Reps. Max Rose, David McKinley, Anthony Brindisi, Denver Riggleman, Gil Cisneros, Morgan Griffith, and Fred Upton for advancing this important legislation at a time when our healthcare workforce is perhaps at its most fragile as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jennifer Breen Feist and Corey Feist, Co-Founders of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation. “We know that physician and provider burnout was at an all-time high before the beginning of this pandemic and it is critical that we educate current and future caregivers about the importance of self-care. The danger of physician mental health stress is not a partisan issue- it is an issue that affects all of our loved ones as givers and receivers of healthcare. Dr. Lorna Breen was a dedicated physician who devoted her life to improving the lives of her patients and her colleagues. This legislation is a continuation of that work. We would also like to recognize and thank the physicians and healthcare providers at Columbia/New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York and our frontline workers and medical community throughout the country.”
The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which is companion legislation to a bill previously introduced by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia, Todd Young of Indiana, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Bill Cassidy, M.D. of Louisiana, is supported by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Osteopathic Association.
“Thank you Congressman Rose for naming this important legislation after our colleague and friend, Dr. Lorna Breen,” said Anil Rustgi, MD, Interim Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculties of Health Science and Medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “The tragedy of her death, impactful of course to her loving family but to us all, illustrates the importance of addressing the mental health needs of our health care providers, especially those heroes who have worked so hard to help New York City fight the COVID-19 pandemic. I am happy to offer my full support for the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act.”
The pandemic is taking an enormous toll on the mental health of healthcare professionals who, on top of their own anxieties, are supporting many Americans in their time of need. Additionally, the stigma surrounding treatment for mental health conditions and substance use disorders can discourage healthcare professionals from seeking help.
Specifically, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act:
- Establishes grants for training health profession students, residents, or healthcare professionals in evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders. The grants would also help improve healthcare professionals’ well-being and job satisfaction.
- Seeks to identify and disseminate evidence-informed best practices for reducing and preventing suicide and burnout among healthcare professionals, training healthcare professionals in appropriate strategies, and promoting their mental and behavioral health and job satisfaction.
- Establishes a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign targeting healthcare professionals to encourage them to seek support and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns.
- Establishes grants for employee education, peer-support programming, and mental and behavioral health treatment; healthcare providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots will be prioritized.
- Establishes a comprehensive study on healthcare professional mental and behavioral health and burnout, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on such professionals’ health.