Clinician mental health bill becomes law

President Joe Biden has signed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act to improve the mental health and well-being of healthcare workers. 

The new law, signed March 18, is named for Lorna Breen, MD, who was chair of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in New York City. Dr. Breen died by suicide April 26, 2020, toward the beginning of the pandemic.

"Healthcare professionals often forgo mental health treatment due to the significant stigma in both our society and the medical community, as well as due to the fear of professional repercussions," Angela Mills, MD, chair of emergency medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, said in a news release. "This law will provide much needed funding to help break down the stigma of mental health care, providing education and training to prevent suicide, address other behavioral health issues, and improve well-being."

The legislation establishes grants for training health profession students, residents and healthcare professionals to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions and substance use disorders, according to the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes' Foundation.

The foundation said the bill also establishes:

  • A national education and awareness initiative to encourage healthcare workers to seek support and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns.
  • Grants for employee education, peer-support programming, and mental and behavioral health treatment.
  • A comprehensive study on mental and behavioral health and burnout among healthcare workers, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Medical Association, American College of Emergency Physicians, Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Hospital Association and the American Psychiatric Association are among the healthcare organizations that support the legislation.

The Senate passed the bill a first time in August 2020 and a second time Feb. 17, 2022, after the House passed an amended version Dec. 8, 2021.   

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