The mental health of health professionals, job satisfaction at the center of the new law

President Biden signs the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. (Photo courtesy of Senator Tim Kaine)

A bipartisan bill signed into law by President Biden on Friday aims to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health and behavioral health issues among medical professionals.

Dr. Lorna Breen’s Health Care Provider Protection Act is named after an emergency department doctor who committed suicide two years ago while serving on the front lines of the pandemic of COVID-19.

“The mental health consequences of COVID-19 are particularly severe for our frontline healers, who have made enormous sacrifices to care for their patients in uncharted times,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who introduced the legislation, said in a statement after the signing ceremony. “This bill is an essential first step in providing them with mental health resources to deal with the challenges they face every day. Supporting our healthcare workforce will benefit everyone, as we all need great healthcare professionals to care for us and our loved ones. By keeping our healthcare professionals healthy, everyone in society wins.

More specifically, the The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act:

  • Establish grants for health care providers and professional associations for employee education, peer support programs, and mental and behavioral health treatment. Healthcare providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots will be prioritized.
  • Establish grants for schools of health professions, academic health centers and other institutions to help them train health workers in strategies to prevent suicide, burnout, mental health problems and substance use disorders. The grants are also intended to help improve the well-being and job satisfaction of healthcare professionals.
  • Seek to identify and disseminate evidence-based best practices to reduce and prevent suicide and burnout among healthcare professionals, train healthcare professionals in appropriate strategies, and promote their mental and behavioral health and job satisfaction.
  • Establish a national, evidence-based education and awareness campaign targeting healthcare professionals to encourage them to seek support and treatment for mental and behavioral health issues.
  • Establish an in-depth study on the mental and behavioral health and burnout of healthcare professionals, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of these professionals.

“We applaud Congress and the administration for these newly created resources aimed at promoting mental and behavioral health among frontline staff, especially those caring for residents of seniors communities who were most at risk of ‘COVID-19 infection,’ American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless said McKnight Senior Residence. “The impact of this stress on the workforce cannot be overstated, and this program will provide an attractive option for companies wishing to take advantage of these available grants. ASHA will promote the availability of these funds to our members.

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living also stated McKnight Senior Residence that the organizations would “encourage our members to take advantage of these grants”.

“The pandemic has taken an emotional and physical toll on our caregivers, and all of the resources available to help with mental health and wellbeing is welcome news. Burnout is a huge concern, especially as many long-term caregivers felt left out or blamed for a vicious virus that only targeted the elderly,” the AHCA/NCAL said in a statement.

Some provisions inspired by Dr. Lorna Breen’s Health Care Provider Protection Act were funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, COVID-19 relief legislation signed into law in March 2021, but Kaine said the draft Full legislation was needed to authorize all of its provisions and provide more direction on how the money should be spent.

The legislation passed the Senate on February 18 after passing the House on December 8.

Kaine was joined in presenting the legislation by Sens. Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Todd Young (R-IN) along with Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), David McKinley (R- WV) and Susan Wild (D-PA).

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