Upton joins senators to support mental health of U.S. frontline healthcare workers

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) this week reintroduced a bipartisan bill to address the behavioral health and well-being of America’s healthcare professionals.

“The demands our healthcare heroes are facing haven’t changed. They are being asked to care for communities here in southwest Michigan and across the country 24/7 as this pandemic continues,” Rep. Upton said on March 5. “We need to have their backs.” 

The U.S. House of Representatives’ version of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, H.R. 1667, was introduced on March 8 by Rep. Upton and U.S. Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), among others. Lawmakers are pushing for inclusion of the bill in the latest COVID-19 relief package making its way through Congress. 

U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-IN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) are among the 18 senators who on March 4 introduced the Senate version of the bill, S. 610.

“Doctors, nurses and health care workers shoulder the responsibility of saving lives. Working overtime during the pandemic with a heightened risk of becoming infected only adds to that stress,” said Sen. Cassidy. “This bill is an important lifeline for medical professionals so that they, too, can get the care they need even as they care for others.” 

Sen. Young added that during the past year, U.S. frontline workers have bore the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. “As we continue to navigate this global health crisis, it is critical that we look out for Hoosier healthcare professionals and other frontline workers,” he said. “The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act will help these workers get the support they need to prevent suicide and promote mental and behavioral health.”

The legislation — which originally was introduced in 2020 in the 116th Congress, but expired at the end of the session — is named for Dr. Lorna Breen, a Charlottesville, Va., physician working on the frontlines of the pandemic in New York, who died by suicide in April 2020. 

If enacted, the proposed bill would establish grants for training health profession students, residents or healthcare professionals in evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Upton’s office.

Additionally, the bill would seek to identify and disseminate evidence-informed best practices for reducing and preventing suicide and burnout among healthcare professionals, as well as training healthcare professionals in appropriate strategies, the summary says.

The measure also would establish a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign targeting healthcare professionals about seeking support and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns, according to the summary, and establish grants for employee education, peer-support programming, and mental and behavioral health treatment, prioritizing grants for healthcare providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots.

“There have been too many examples of healthcare heroes suffering from enormous pressure as they fight the worst public health crisis in 100 years,” said Rep. Upton. “The legislation we have reintroduced will help promote mental and behavioral health for our healthcare professionals, improving their overall well-being.”

The Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation and the American College of Emergency Physicians support the bill.