By: Cristina N. Hyde, JD
Campanella Law Office applauds and emphatically supports the introduction of S. 4349, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (the “Act”). Named to honor the emergency physician who took her own life in April 2020 after working on the frontlines of the pandemic and surviving COVID-19 herself, the Act addresses the burnout and stress experienced by our health care community within the context of the current health crises. Proponents of the Act recognize that the need for this legislation long pre-dates the mental and emotional havoc caused by COVID-19 and that the benefits of the proposed studies and training programs will outstay the pandemic as well.
Introduced by Senators Tim Kaine, Todd Young, Jack Reed, and Bill Cassidy, M.D., the Act recognizes the alarming suicide rates among health care professionals and endeavors to eliminate barriers that typically deter professionals from seeking help. Physicians consistently have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession in the United States. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention attributes this to a hesitancy to seek mental health care or draw attention to self-perceived weakness, time constraints, and concerns about reputation and confidentiality.
With the clear goal of reducing barriers and preventing suicide, burnout, and mental or behavioral health conditions among health care professionals, the Act provides funding through grants for the establishment of programs and comprehensive studies related to:
- The training of health care professionals in strategies to reduce and prevents suicide, burnout and behavioral health conditions, including mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders.
- The training of health care professionals in strategies to improve well-being and job satisfaction.
- Education and awareness that would encourage health care professionals to seek support and treatment and teach them to identify risk factors in themselves and others and learn how best to respond to such risks.
- The promotion of mental and behavioral health among employees or members who are working on the front lines of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic; prioritizing individuals in pandemic hot spots.
- The study of and identification of contributing factors such as barriers to seeking and accessing treatment as well as the study of the specific impact of the pandemic on health care professionals and related preparedness strategies for future health emergencies. This study would including recommendations related to the promotion of resiliency among health care professionals and the removal of barriers to mental and behavioral health care.
Of course, the Act is in lockstep with the mission espoused by the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation which is to build a community of support for impacted clinicians and their families. You can visit any of the Foundation’s social media accounts to find additional information not only specifically about the Act but also about efforts to improve the culture surrounding the health care profession; making it possible to seek help when necessary.
Most importantly, if you are in crisis, Campanella Law Office begs you not to struggle alone. Reach out for help and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or contact the Crises Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. Moreover, our office is always available to assist any physician or provider who is unsure were to seek help.