Bipartisan Legislation Introduced To Support Healthcare Professionals’ Mental Health Amid COVID-19

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. Congressmen David B. McKinley, P.E. (R-W.Va.-01), Max Rose (NY-11), Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Denver Riggleman (VA-05), Gil Cisneros (CA-39), Morgan Griffith (VA-09), and Fred Upton (MI-06) introduced 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 healthcare workers have been on the frontlines battling the COVID-19 crisis since day one,” McKinley said. “We must ensure they have access to good-quality mental healthcare if and when they need it. By supporting our healthcare frontline workers, we can ensure they are staying mentally healthy while continuing to fight the coronavirus pandemic.”

   “The healthcare professionals on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic have been through hell to keep us safe—and the trauma they’ve experienced is real and cannot be ignored,” Rose said. “Dr. Breen was a hero in every sense of the word. She dedicated her life to saving others and answered the call while New York City was facing the darkest of days. This legislation will continue her life’s work and ensure her legacy is never forgotten. I’m proud to be joined by colleagues across the aisle and across the Capitol on this effort—because when it comes to having the backs of those who were there for us, it’s not about politics or party, it’s about doing the right thing.”

   “Our brave health care professionals have worked day and night during this pandemic,” Brindisi said. “Their sacrifice, bravery, and knowledge helped New York State flatten the curve and saved countless lives. This sacrifice takes a toll and Congress needs to step up for our health care heroes like they stepped up for us. This bipartisan legislation will address the burnout and mental health issues associated with this life-saving work during the pandemic and care for those who cared for us.”

   “ Our healthcare workers are worthy of our support and endless thanks,” Riggleman said. “Dr. Lorna Breen is a hero who did tremendous work helping to heal the wounded and care for the sick. This legislation will carry on Dr. Bremen’s legacy by providing the tools and services healthcare workers need to prevent burnout and address the mental health struggles they face. I am proud to sponsor this legislation that can help save lives.”

   “Since day one of this pandemic, our healthcare workers have been fighting around the clock to keep our communities safe,” Cisneros said. “They deserve more than just our thanks. They deserve the resources and tools to help them cope 

with the stress, burnout, and trauma they’re facing during this crisis. I’m proud to join my Republican and Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate to introduce a bill that supports the mental health of our healthcare heroes and honor the legacy of Dr. Lorna Breen.”

   “Battling the coronavirus pandemic has exacted a heavy mental toll on many, including our health care professionals,” Griffith said. “This has been a stressful time, and it is important that health care professionals know they have access to mental health resources when needed. I am proud to join my colleagues in this effort as one way to support our tremendous health care 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.”