McKinley Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Support Health Care Workers’ Mental Health Amid COVID-19

Bill named in honor of Dr. Lorna Breen, who died by suicide while serving on frontlines of the pandemic

WASHINGTON D.C. - Yesterday, U.S. Representatives David B. McKinley P.E. (R-W.Va.) and Susan Wild (D-PA) reintroduced the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. This bill 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 in April 2020 when Dr. Lorna Breen, a physician from Charlottesville, Virginia, working on the frontlines of the pandemic in New York, died by suicide. This bill will help promote mental and behavioral health among those working on the frontlines of the pandemic. It also supports training for health professionals to prevent suicide and burnout and increases awareness about suicide and mental health concerns among health care professionals.

“Frontline responders are critical to America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said McKinley. “By removing barriers and providing better access to vital mental health services, we are prioritizing the health and well-being of our frontline workers as they continue to combat COVID.”

“America owes an incredible debt of gratitude to the health care professionals who have worked tirelessly for the last year to keep us safe. The trauma of their experience, and their proximity to this national tragedy, is something we must address head on,” said Wild. “Dr. Lorna Breen was a hero who embodied the spirit of service in our time of national crisis, and I’m honored to lead this bill in her memory and put forth this legislation to prevent burnout among the health professionals answering the call of duty.”  

Joining Reps. McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Susan Wild (D-PA) as original cosponsors are Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and John Katko (R-NY).

The Senate companion version to the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act was also introduced by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) Todd Young (R-IN), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA).

Background

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.

The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act is supported by: the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM), American Academy Of Emergency Medicine Resident and Student Association (AAEM/RSA), American College of Emergency Physicians, American Academy of Dermatology Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of PAs, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Association of Clinical Urologists, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic (AACOM), American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American College of Cardiology, American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American College of Physicians, American College of Radiology, American College of Rheumatology, American College of Surgeons, American Counseling Association, American Dance Therapy Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Gastroenterological Association, American Hospital Association (AHA), American Medical Association, American Medical Student Association, American Medical Group Association, American Nurses Association, American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), American Osteopathic Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Society of Anesthesiologists, Association for Clinical Oncology, Association of American Medical Colleges, Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Ballad Health, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation, EMDR International Association, Emergency Nurses Association, Envision Healthcare, Federation of State Medical Boards, Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP), The Joint Commission, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Spine Specialists, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Board Certified Counselors, National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), Physicians Advocacy Institute, Postpartum Support International, Renal Physicians Association, RI International, SMART Recovery, Society for Vascular Surgery, The International OCD Foundation, The Jed Foundation, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons, UVA Health, and the Well Being Trust.

You can view the full text of the bill here.

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