The ACR has worked with our coalition partners to advance the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act in Congress and anticipate it becoming law as soon as this week.
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The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (Breen Act) is the first legislation of its kind, providing federal grants for training programs on treatment to reduce burnout for healthcare professionals and offer mental health services to prevent suicide by healthcare workers.
The legislation is named for Dr. Breen, 49, who was an emergency room doctor at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in New York City serving on the front lines when the first wave of COVID-19 patients overwhelmed the hospital system. Dr. Breen suffered and recovered from COVID-19 herself before going back to working 12-hour days during the surge. Dr. Breen reached out to friends and family for help while dealing with mental health issues from the stress of the pandemic and retreated to her friends’ home in Charlottesville, Va., for 11 days before she died by suicide.
Dr. Breen’s story put a spotlight on the question of who is helping frontline workers cope with the overwhelming stress of their jobs during the pandemic. The Breen Act will help reduce and prevent mental and behavioral health conditions, suicide and burnout, as well as increase access to evidence-based treatment for physicians, medical students and other healthcare professionals, especially those who continue to be overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Providing for Providers
The ACR joined a coalition around this issue led by the American College of Emergency Physicians, of which Dr. Breen was a member. Physicians and other clinicians seeking treatment for mental health fear loss of licensure, loss of income or other meaningful career setbacks because of ongoing stigma. As a result, physicians are at significantly higher risk of dying by suicide than the general public.
Efforts to ensure clinicians can freely seek mental health treatment and services without fear of professional setback can help their mental healthcare needs be resolved, rather than hidden away and suffered through. Optimal clinician mental health is essential to ensuring that patients have a strong and capable health care workforce to provide the care they need and deserve. Such care is also essential for patient access to care, a point highlighted in the ACR-signed coalition letter in support of this legislation.
Specifically, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act:
- Establishes grants for training healthcare professionals in evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions and substance use disorders. The grants would also help improve healthcare professionals’ well-being and job satisfaction;
- Seeks to identify and disseminate evidence-informed best practices for reducing and preventing suicide and burnout among healthcare professionals, training healthcare professionals in appropriate strategies, and promoting their mental and behavioral health and job satisfaction;
- Establishes a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign targeting healthcare 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, with priority given to healthcare providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots; and
- Establishes a comprehensive study on healthcare professional mental and behavioral health and burnout, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on such professionals’ health.
Congress passed the Breen Act in mid-February, and President Biden is expected to sign the legislation soon. Watch for updates on our @ACRheumDC Twitter account.