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Upton Reintroduces 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, R-St. Joseph, and a bipartisan group of members from the U.S. House and Senate have reintroduced the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals. The legislation was introduced in 2020 in the 116th Congress and has been reintroduced this Congress.

 

Health care professionals have long experienced high levels of stress and burnout, and throughout the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has only further exacerbated the problem. While helping their patients fight for their lives, many health care professionals have been 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.

 

“The demands our health care heroes are facing haven’t changed. They are being asked to care for communities here in southwest Michigan and across the country 24/7 as this pandemic continues. We need to have their backs,” Upton said. “There have been too many examples of health care heroes suffering from enormous pressure as they fight the worst public health crisis in 100 years. The legislation we have reintroduced will help promote mental and behavioral health for our health care professionals, improving their overall well-being. We hope to see it included in the Senate version of the COVID-19 relief package.”

 

"Our health care heroes have long experienced high levels of stress and burnout, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem. Not until the death of my beloved sister, did we learn of the pervasiveness of mental health issues among medical professionals," said Jennifer Breen Feist, co-founder of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes' Foundation. "The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act legislation is a critical step in building the policy framework to address mental health concerns facing our healthcare providers during this challenging time. We are encouraged by the bipartisan support this legislation has garnered and hopeful that this important issue is at last generating the attention it deserves.” 

 

Specifically, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act:

  • Establishes grants for training health profession students, residents, or health care professionals in evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders. The grants would also help improve health care professionals’ well-being and job satisfaction.
  • Seeks 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.
  • Establishes 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.
  • Establishes grants 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.
  • Establishes 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.

 

 Upton is an original cosponsor of the legislation.

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