PRESS RELEASE

KAINE, YOUNG, KIGGANS, WILD, CARTER & DINGELL INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN BILL TO SUPPORT HEALTH CARE PROVIDER MENTAL HEALTH

Legislation Named in Honor of Dr. Lorna Breen, a Charlottesville Native Who Died by Suicide While Serving on Front Lines of the Pandemic

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (January 30, 2024) – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Todd Young (R-IN) and U.S. Representatives Jen Kiggans (R-VA-2), Susan Wild (D-PA-7), Buddy Carter (R-GA-1), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI-6) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to reauthorize the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, a comprehensive law Senators Kaine and Young and Rep. Wild successfully pushed to pass to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals. The law has already provided $100 million in funding for mental health care for providers across the country, including $5.6 million in federal funding for Virginia providers at UVA Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, and George Mason University, but provisions of the law that made this funding possible are set to expire at the end of this year. The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Reauthorization Act would reauthorize these grant programs for five years.

“Our health care providers make countless sacrifices to care for us, and we owe it to them to provide them with the mental health care and resources they need,” said Senator Kaine. “This bill will build on the progress the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act made and ensure we are continuing to do what we can to prevent burnout, protect the well-being of our health care workforce, address shortages in the field, and help Virginians get high-quality care.”

“As we’ve seen so often over the past several years, our frontline workers put their own health on the line every day to serve our communities in Indiana and across the country,” said Senator Young. “Congress must act to reauthorize this important program to provide our health care workforce with needed support to prevent suicide and promote mental and behavioral health.”

“I’m proud to be leading the bipartisan effort to eliminate stigmas surrounding mental health and provide the support that our incredible nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals in our communities deserve,” said Congresswoman Kiggans. “With shortages throughout our healthcare system, it is more important than ever to provide our medical professionals with the support and training needed to properly care for themselves and their patients.”

“Dr. Lorna Breen was a hero, one of many health care providers who put their lives on the line to keep us safe during the pandemic. And she was one of countless health care heroes who face mental health crises and a suicide rate twice that of the general public, largely due to the demanding, all-consuming nature of their work,” said Congresswoman Wild. “I was proud to introduce the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act last Congress and see it become law. Now, we must reauthorize this critical law to continue carrying on Dr. Breen’s legacy and investing in support for health workers’ mental health needs.”

“Our health care providers are some of the best among us, but too often, their mental health needs are not given adequate resources and support. This must change. By reauthorizing the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, we will prioritize health care providers’ well-being by ensuring their access to evidence-based mental health and substance use disorder strategies and education,” said Congressman Carter.

“Healthcare professionals dedicate their lives to serving their patients, often at the expense of their own physical and emotional wellbeing,” said Congresswoman Dingell. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation that will provide much-needed resources to address the mental and behavioral health conditions doctors and nurses face and continue reducing the stigma surrounding mental health care.”

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 helping to address mental health concerns facing our health care providers.

Specifically, Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Reauthorization Act would:

  • Reauthorize a grant program for health care organizations and professional associations for employee education on strategies to reduce burnout, peer-support programming, and mental and behavioral health treatment for five years. Communities with a shortage of health care workers, rural communities, and those experiencing burnout due to administrative burdens like lengthy paperwork will be prioritized.
  • Reauthorize a grant program for health profession schools or other institutions to train health care workers and students in strategies to prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders for five years.
  • Reauthorize a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign. Currently, the campaign provides hospital and health system leaders with evidence-informed solutions to reduce health care worker burnout. Reauthorization will provide resources for the campaign to continue and expand beyond its current scope.

“We are profoundly grateful to Senator Kaine and all supporting organizations for their unwavering commitment to the mental health and well-being of our healthcare workforce,” said Corey Feist, JD, MBA, co-founder and CEO of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation. “This landmark legislation, honoring the legacy of my sister-in-law, is a critical lifeline for health workers, offering support to address the mental health challenges they face and improving how our healthcare system operates so it no longer puts an immense strain on their well-being. It is vital that we reauthorize and increase funding of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. It’s not just a matter of policy—it’s a critical piece of legislation for our healthcare delivery supply chain that benefits every health worker, every patient, every caregiver, and every person that will require medical care in their lifetime.”

“Elevating the issue of health care provider and clinician physical and mental wellness is critically important to community and public health. Health care providers are people with lives and challenges, just like everyone else. They also happen to be the people patients and families count on in their hour of medical need,” said Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “Reauthorizing the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act will help ensure there are resources in place to support health care professionals so they can continue to care for patients. Given our ongoing focus on provider wellness, the hospital community enthusiastically supports this bipartisan legislation from Senator Kaine and Representative Kiggans and we urge Congress to act swiftly on it.”

“Our community needs healthcare providers to care for us and our loved ones. In doing this necessary work, our healthcare teams are facing a mental health and burnout crisis, leading many to leave the field of medicine. This hurts every community! The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act is a key piece to changing the landscape of mental health and well-being for our healthcare professionals. The Medical Society of Virginia (MSV) and SafeHaven support this Act and will continue to advocate for change alongside the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation,” said MSV CEO, Melina Davis.

“The pandemic has pushed our primary care workforce to the brink of exhaustion, with most reporting significant levels of burnout.  The mental health care of these precious resources is vital. Shenandoah Community Health strongly supports this bill,” said Michael Hassing, CEO, Shenandoah Community Health.

“As health care providers we are present at some of life’s best moments; the birth of a child, a biopsy that returns showing that it’s not cancer. At the same time, we are present at some of life’s most devastating too. It’s impossible to avoid absorbing some of the tragedy we see play out in our patients’ lives. I am so grateful this issue is recognized and addressed by the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. It provides a blueprint to mitigate and address the mental health crisis in our profession,” said Dr. David Roberts, Chief Medical Officer, Community Health Center of the New River Valley.

The Dr. Lorna Breen Healthcare Provider Protection Act addresses one of Inova’s most important priorities – the health and well-being of our 24,000 team members and all healthcare providers in Virginia. Ensuring every healthcare provider can practice in a psychologically safe environment where they feel supported in times of stress, burnout, and crisis is both a moral imperative and a health workforce necessity. This reauthorization will ensure that Dr. Breen’s memory will endure in the many lives that are saved in years to come, and we are grateful for Senator Kaine and Congresswoman Kiggans for their leadership,” said J. Stephen Jones, MD, President and CEO, Inova.

“Senator Kaine’s leadership in reauthorizing the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act will improve the lives of healthcare workers across the state, particularly in rural and underserved areas. By introducing practical, evidence-based intervention strategies, researchers at George Mason’s College of Public Health are helping healthcare organizations reduce worker burnout, increase resilience, and improve mental health support for their front-line healthcare workers. This legislation will continue to save lives,” said Dr. Melissa J. Perry, Dean of George Mason’s College of Public Health.

“UVA Health is grateful for Senator Kaine and Congresswoman Kiggans’ continued commitment to raise awareness of the mental health needs of our healthcare and frontline workers caring for patients and the need to engage openly in this conversation. We can provide the best care for our patients with a resilient and compassionate healthcare workforce and a healthcare environment that is responsive, caring and supportive,” said K. Craig Kent, M.D., Chief Executive Officer, UVA Health and Executive Vice President, Health Affairs. 

“Choosing a path to serve others as a health care provider is not for the faint of heart. The front lines of a hospital are often faced with very difficult and emotionally taxing situations, and they take its toll. Like Dr. Breen, many providers’ passion and dedication to taking care of others takes precedent over their own wellbeing,” said Marlon Levy, M.D, MBA, interim senior vice president for VCU Health Sciences and interim CEO of VCU Health System. “VCU was one of three grant recipients in Virginia and has been able to use the funds to support our organizational focus on Workforce Wellness for our VCU Health team members. As such, VCU is pleased to support the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Reauthorization Act and thank Sen. Kaine and Rep. Kiggans for their leadership on this important issue. We must take care of our health care workforce and this legislation helps us do that.”

“Our nation is in the midst of a mental health crisis and healthcare providers see this both through the patients they care for and through their own personal mental health needs.  I applaud the work to continue to destigmatize mental health and align resources to support our caregivers, especially in rural and underserved communities where there is already a shortage of healthcare providers,” said Mark Nantz, President and CEO Valley Health System, Winchester, Virginia. 

A full list of supporters and endorsing quotes is available here.

Full text of the bill is available here.

Senator Kaine would like to thank his Senior Health Policy Advisor Samantha Koehler for her work on this legislation.