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March 12, 2021

Collins, King Join Bipartisan Group in Introducing Bill to Prevent Suicide, Support Mental Health for Health Care Workers Amid COVID-19

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King joined a bipartisan group in introducing the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act.  This comprehensive, bipartisan legislation would help to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals.

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.

“Working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care professionals put themselves at increased risk, endure enormous pressure, and witness heartbreaking tragedies to keep our communities 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.  This bipartisan bill would provide health care professionals with resources to improve their wellbeing and mental health.”

“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 would:

·         Establish 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.

·         Seek 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.

·         Establish 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.

·         Establish 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.

·         Establish 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.

In addition to Senators Collins and King, the legislation was also introduced by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Todd Young (R-IN), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark R. 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 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 Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of PAs, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic (AACOM), American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Counseling Association, American Dance Therapy Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Hospital Association (AHA), American Medical Association, American Medical Student Association, American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), American Osteopathic Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Society of Anesthesiologists, 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, EMDR International Association, Envision Healthcare, Federation of State Medical Boards, Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP), Mental Health America, 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), Postpartum Support International, RI International, SMART Recovery, The International OCD Foundation, The Jed Foundation, UVA Health, and the Well Being Trust.

Click HERE to view the full bill text.

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