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House passes bill named for UVA alum boosting mental health services for healthcare professionals

mental health
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The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass bipartisan legislation to support healthcare professionals’ mental and behavioral health.

The Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act would authorize grants to train healthcare professionals in evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders, as well as fund mental and behavioral health treatment and peer-support programming.

Healthcare providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots would be prioritized in distribution of these grants.

This legislation is named after Dr. Lorna M. Breen, an emergency medicine attending physician from Charlottesville and graduate of the University of Virginia School of Medicine who died by suicide in April 2020 while working on the front lines in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.

The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act will:

  • Establish grants for health profession schools, academic health centers, or other institutions to help them train health workers in strategies to prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders. The grants would also help improve health care professionals’ well-being and job satisfaction.
  • Seek to identify and disseminate evidence-informed best practices for reducing and preventing suicide and burnout among health care professionals, training health care professionals in appropriate strategies, and promoting their mental and behavioral health and job satisfaction.
  • Establish a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign targeting health care professionals to encourage them to seek support and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns.
  • Establish grants for health care providers and professional associations for employee education, peer-support programming, and mental and behavioral health treatment; health care providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots will be prioritized.
  • Establish a comprehensive study on health care professional mental and behavioral health and burnout, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on such professionals’ health.

“The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on the mental health of our nation’s health care workers,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the author of the legislation. “This legislation will work to prevent burnout and suicide among our nation’s healers by providing them with the mental health support they need. I thank my co-leads in the Senate and the House for helping get this legislation to this crucial milestone, and I look forward to the President signing this bill into law.”

“Dr. Breen’s story is absolutely heartbreaking — and her death was a tragic moment for the UVA community, as well as our entire Commonwealth and country,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), a cosponsor of the legislation. “From the earliest days of the pandemic, she — along with thousands of dedicated healthcare professionals across our country — worked tirelessly to treat patients from overcrowded waiting rooms. The paralyzing pressures these heroes face day in and day out have been greatly exacerbated by a global pandemic.

“The Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act would not only get much-needed help to our doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals, but it would encourage them to seek support and treatment when they need it. These heroes have been on the front lines of this pandemic for nearly two years, and I am proud to see so many of my colleagues understand that we must do what we can to protect those who work so selflessly to protect us,” Spanberger said.

“We are pleased the House of Representatives has passed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act and are grateful for the Virginia Congressional delegation’s leadership in advancing this important legislation,” said K. Craig Kent, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of UVA Health and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at the University of Virginia. “We are resolute in our belief that we provide the best care to our patients when we have a resilient and compassionate health care workforce as well as an environment that is responsive, caring, and supportive to our patients and to one another.”

This bill would also establish a comprehensive study on mental and behavioral health and burnout among medical professionals, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on professionals’ health.

Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act — passed in March of this year — included funding for important programs related to healthcare providers’ mental and behavioral health. The Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act would authorize these already-funded programs, and includes additional elements that were not included in the previous legislation.

This bill is supported by many physician and suicide prevention groups, including UVA Health, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Medical Association.

Click here to read the full bill text.


augusta free press
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