The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (H.R. 1667), legislation to fund programs to improve the well-being and mental health of health care workers, including proivders of home-based care.
This legislation is motivated at least in part by concern about the unprecedented stress and burnout health care workers have faced as a result of the demands put upon them by the COVID-19 pandemic. The law is named for Dr. Lorna Breen, the medical director of the emergency department at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, who died by suicide in the Spring of 2020.
The bill passed in the U.S. Senate in August, but it will now go back to that chamber since a small change was made to the House version. If it passes, it will then go to President Biden to be signed into law.
The bill would:
- 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 areas with health professional shortages or rural areas will be prioritized.
- 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 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.
The bill calls for $45 million per year for FY 2022-2024 for the above activities.
While the early 2022 legislative calendar remains in flux, it is possible that the Senate will soon consider the legislation and possibly seek passage via the fast-tracked “unanimous consent” process, which would clear the way for President Biden to sign the bill into law.
The pandemic, coupled with historic workforce shortages that have forced providers to work longer and harder than ever before, continue to strain caregiver’s ability to take attend to their own behavioral health needs. The National Association for Home Care & Hospice urges Congress to swiftly cooperate to pass the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, and we stand ready to work with the Administration and other stakeholders to ensure its successful implementation.