Sens. introduce legislation supporting health care professionals’ mental health amid COVID-19

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Four U. S. Senators have introduced legislation that hopes to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout and mental health/behavioral health conditions among health care professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-IN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) introduced the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act on Wednesday. The bill acknowledges that health care professionals have experience dealing with high levels of stress and burnout, but that COVID-19 has exacerbated problems, leaving many health care professionals coping with the trauma of losing patents and colleagues, while fearing for their own health and safety.

Named for Dr. Lorna Breen, a physician from Charlottesville, Va. who committed suicide after working on the frontlines of the pandemic in New York City, the bill looks to promote mental and behavioral health among frontline health care workers, as well as support suicide and burnout prevention training among health care professionals.

“Our frontline health care professionals face high levels of stress daily as they work to keep Hoosiers healthy, especially during this difficult time,” Young said. “The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act will help these critical workers get the support they need to prevent suicide and promote mental and behavioral health.”

Specifically, the bill would establish grants for training health profession students, residents and established career professionals with evidence-informed strategies that would reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions and substance use disorders; identify and disseminate best practices for reducing and preventing suicide and burnout among health care professionals; establish a national education and awareness campaign targeting health care professionals urging them to seek help and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns; establish grants for employee education, peer-support programming and mental and behavioral health treatment, giving priority to health care providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots; and establish a comprehensive study on the impact of COVID-19 on the mental and behavioral health of health care professionals.

The legislation is supported by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Osteopathic Association.

“ACEP is grateful for the introduction of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. This bill helps carry on Dr. Breen’s legacy and will ensure emergency physicians and other health care providers get the mental health treatment they need as they continue to serve on the front lines of the most serious public health crisis of our lifetime,” William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), said.

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