Upton bill seeks to reduce healthcare professional burnout during COVID-19 crisis

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced Monday the bipartisan Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which seeks to reduce and prevent suicide and other mental and behavioral health conditions among healthcare professionals.

Dr. Lorna Breen was a physician at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. She committed suicide after going to visit family.

While healthcare professionals are usually subject to high levels of stress and burnout, the COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated the problem, according to a statement released by Rep. Upton’s office.

“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,” Rep. 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.”

Upton introduced the legislation, H.R. 8094, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Max Rose (D-NY). The bill, if enacted, would establish grants for training health profession students, residents, and healthcare professionals in evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent suicide, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders, while also helping to improve the overall well-being and job satisfaction of healthcare professionals. It would also establish a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign to encourage healthcare professionals to seek support and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns.

Lastly, the act would call for a comprehensive study on healthcare professional mental and behavioral health, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Osteopathic Association support the legislation.

U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Senate version of the bill, S. 4349, last month with bill sponsor U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). It was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions for review.