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April 20, 2022

Collins, King Bill to Prevent Suicide, Support Mental Health for Health Care Workers Amid COVID-19 Signed into Law

Washington, D.C. – The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act – a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) – was signed into law. The comprehensive legislation will prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals. 

“Working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care professionals put themselves at increased risk, endure enormous pressure, and witness heartbreaking tragedies while keeping our communities healthy and safe,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “Our nation is grateful for the countless and often unseen sacrifices they have made during the pandemic. We are pleased that the President has signed this legislation into law, which will provide health care professionals with resources to improve their wellbeing and mental health.”

Health care professionals have long experienced high levels of stress and burnout, and the COVID-19 pandemic has 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.

Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act will help promote mental and behavioral health among those working on the frontlines of the pandemic. It also will support training for health professionals to prevent suicide and burnout and increases awareness about suicide and mental health concerns among health care professionals. 

Specifically, the legislation:

  • 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 will 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.

The legislation was introduced by Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA). In addition to Senators Collins and King, the bill was co-sponsored by Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

The bill text can be read here

The list of supporting stakeholders can be read here.

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