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Upton Introduces Bipartisan Legislation To Support Healthcare Professionals’ Mental Health Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Bill named in honor of Dr. Lorna Breen, who died by suicide after serving on frontlines of pandemic in New York City

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (MI-06) today joined colleagues Max Rose (NY-11), David McKinley (WV-01), Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Denver Riggleman (VA-05), Gil Cisneros (CA-39), and Morgan Griffith (VA-09) to introduce 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, VA 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.

 “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.”

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, 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.

Full text of the bill HERE.



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