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Kaine’s Bipartisan Bill to Promote Health Care Provider Mental Health Heads to President’s Desk for Signature

Bill Named In Honor Of Dr. Lorna Breen, A Charlottesville Native Who Died By Suicide While Serving On Frontlines Of Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded Senate passage of his bipartisan Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, comprehensive legislation to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals. Having passed the Senate and the House, the bill now heads to President Biden’s desk for signature. Kaine was joined in introducing the legislation by U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA).

“Our health care workers have long suffered significant burnout, and it’s been exacerbated by serving on the front lines combatting COVID-19," said Senator Kaine. "We owe these healers not only a debt of gratitude, but more robust support. This legislation will take steps to provide them with greater resources to cope with the mental health challenges they face.”

“Our frontline workers have performed heroically during the coronavirus pandemic — putting their lives on the line every day for our communities. It is critical that we look out for Hoosier health care professionals and other frontline workers,” said Senator Young. “This legislation will help frontline workers get the support they need to prevent suicide and improve mental and behavioral health.”

“Our doctors, nurses, and frontline health workers have worked non-stop throughout this pandemic to help combat COVID-19 and save lives. We are truly grateful for their service. While they are looking out for patient health, we must look out for their well-being. And that means ensuring they have the resources they need, and also ensuring they have strong mental and emotional health support and interventions in place,” said Senator Reed.

“Doctors, nurses and health care workers shoulder the responsibility of saving lives and have worked overtime during the pandemic,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Passing this bill through Congress provides an important lifeline for medical professionals so they too can get the care they need.” 

“We want to take a moment with you to pause and let all those health care professionals know that we heard you and we have been working diligently to support you. We owe each of you our deepest gratitude for all you’ve done for us and for this country,” said Jennifer Breen Feist and Corey Feist, Co-Founders of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation.

Named in honor of Dr. Lorna Breen, a physician from Charlottesville, Virginia who was working on the front lines of the pandemic in New York and died by suicide in the Spring of 2020, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act is a critical step to address mental health concerns facing our health care providers during COVID-19.

Specifically, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act will:

  • Establish grants for health profession schools, academic health centers, or other institutions to help them train health workers in strategies to 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 health care providers and professional associations 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.

Since first introducing the bill in July 2020, Senator Kaine has been a leader in addressing the mental health impact of the pandemic on health care workers and has continued to urge Congress to prioritize this issue. Some provisions modeled after the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act were funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, COVID relief legislation signed into law in March 2021, but the full bill is needed to authorize all of the programs in the bill and provide more direction on how the money should be spent.

A version of the legislation passed the Senate on August 6, 2021 and the House on December 8, 2021. Due to a small technical difference between the House and Senate versions, it needed to come back and pass the Senate another time before being sent to the President’s desk for signature.