U.S. House Passes Spanberger-Backed Bill Named after UVA Medical School Grad to Strengthen Mental & Behavioral Health Resources for Doctors, Nurses, & Healthcare Professionals

Dec 09, 2021

Bipartisan Bill is Named After Lorna Breen, Physician from Charlottesville Who Died by Suicide While Serving on Front Lines of COVID-19 Pandemic

HENRICO, V.A. — An overwhelming majority of the U.S. House of Representatives last night voted to pass bipartisan legislation which U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger cosponsored to support healthcare professionals’ mental and behavioral health.

The Spanberger-cosponsored Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act would authorize grants to train healthcare professionals in evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders, as well as fund mental and behavioral health treatment and peer-support programming. Healthcare providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots would be prioritized in distribution of these grants.

This legislation is named after Dr. Lorna M. Breen, an emergency medicine attending physician from Charlottesville and graduate of the University of Virginia School of Medicine who died by suicide in April 2020 while working on the front lines in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.

“Dr. Breen’s story is absolutely heartbreaking — and her death was a tragic moment for the UVA community, as well as our entire Commonwealth and country,” said Spanberger. “From the earliest days of the pandemic, she — along with thousands of dedicated healthcare professionals across our country — worked tirelessly to treat patients from overcrowded waiting rooms. The paralyzing pressures these heroes face day in and day out have been greatly exacerbated by a global pandemic. The Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act would not only get much-needed help to our doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals, but it would encourage them to seek support and treatment when they need it. These heroes have been on the front lines of this pandemic for nearly two years, and I am proud to see so many of my colleagues understand that we must do what we can to protect those who work so selflessly to protect us.”

“We are pleased the House of Representatives has passed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act and are grateful for the Virginia Congressional delegation’s leadership in advancing this important legislation,” said K. Craig Kent, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of UVA Health and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at the University of Virginia. “We are resolute in our belief that we provide the best care to our patients when we have a resilient and compassionate health care workforce as well as an environment that is responsive, caring, and supportive to our patients and to one another.”

This bill would also establish a comprehensive study on mental and behavioral health and burnout among medical professionals, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on professionals’ health.

Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act — passed in March of this year — included funding for important programs related to healthcare providers’ mental and behavioral health. The Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act would authorize these already-funded programs, and includes additional elements that were not included in the previous legislation.

This House-passed bill is supported by many physician and suicide prevention groups, including UVA Health, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Medical Association.

Spanberger has been a leader in protecting front line healthcare providers during the pandemic. Last month, she introduced the bipartisan Provider Relief Fund Improvement Act, which would expand providers’ ability to use COVID-19 relief funds to include workplace and safety provisions, such as secure locks and trauma support for affected personnel.

Click here to read the full bill text.


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