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Kaine works to reauthorize funding for mental health care for providers in Virginia, nationwide

Crystal Graham
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Funding for a mental health care initiative to prevent suicide and reduce burnout, mental and behavioral conditions among health care professionals is set to expire at the end of the year.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and a group of bipartisan legislators introduced a bill to reauthorize the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act.

The act has provided $100 million in funding for mental health care for providers across the country, including $5.6 million in federal funding for Virginia providers at UVA Health, Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University.

The reauthorization would enable these grant programs for an additional five years.

The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Reauthorization Act would:

  • Reauthorize a grant program for health care organizations and professional associations for employee education on strategies to reduce burnout, peer-support programming and mental and behavioral health treatment for five years. Communities with a shortage of health care workers, rural communities and those experiencing burnout due to administrative burdens like lengthy paperwork will be prioritized.
  • Reauthorize a grant program for health profession schools or other institutions to train health care workers and students in strategies to prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions and substance use disorders for five years.
  • Reauthorize a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign. Currently, the campaign provides hospital and health system leaders with evidence-informed solutions to reduce health care worker burnout. Reauthorization will provide resources for the campaign to continue and expand beyond its current scope.

“Our health care providers make countless sacrifices to care for us, and we owe it to them to provide them with the mental health care and resources they need,” said Sen. Kaine. “This bill will build on the progress the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act made and ensure we are continuing to do what we can to prevent burnout, protect the well-being of our health care workforce, address shortages in the field and help Virginians get high-quality care.”

The legislation is named in honor of Dr. Lorna Breen, a physician from Charlottesville who was working on the front lines of the pandemic in New York and died by suicide in 2020.

“We are profoundly grateful to Senator Kaine and all supporting organizations for their unwavering commitment to the mental health and well-being of our healthcare workforce,” said Corey Feist, JD, MBA, co-founder and CEO of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation. “This landmark legislation, honoring the legacy of my sister-in-law, is a critical lifeline for health workers, offering support to address the mental health challenges they face and improving how our healthcare system operates so it no longer puts an immense strain on their well-being.”

Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton said he encourages Congress to act swiftly on reauthorizing the act.

“Elevating the issue of health care provider and clinician physical and mental wellness is critically important to community and public health. Health care providers are people with lives and challenges, just like everyone else. They also happen to be the people patients and families count on in their hour of medical need,” said Connaughton.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.