House passes The Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act

Dr. Lorna Breen, the physician the bill is named after.
Dr. Lorna Breen, the physician the bill is named after.(Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes' Foundation)
Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 3:12 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A first-of-its kind mental health bill is one step closer to landing on President Joe Biden’s desk.

The House of Representative passed the Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which would help doctors, nurses, and aids. It is named after a physician from Charlottesville who had graduated from the VCU Medical Center.

Breen died by suicide while working on the front lines fighting the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020.

The Lorna Breen Act is designed to help keep healthcare workers safe.

“Prior to the pandemic, the healthcare workforce was significantly burnt out, and in fact, going into the pandemic people across the industry were talking about healthcare burnout as the number one issue for the year,” President and Co-founder of Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation and CEO of UVA Physicians Group Corey Feist said.

Feist is Breen’s brother-in-law. He’s been working to get this bill passed for the last year-and-a-half.

Feist says the trauma and depression associated with the healthcare field - even before the pandemic - created suicide rates twice the national average.

“In fact, over 400 physicians every year died by suicide before the pandemic. Now that the pandemic has occurred, the burnout rates have amplified significantly across the industry,” he said. “We have now sent the equivalent of a significant portion of our doctors and nurses across the healthcare industry off to war for over a year, and we need to support them as they come back from that war.”

The Lorna Breen Act works reverse these trends by providing grants to reduce and prevent suicide and burnout, as well as fund mental and behavioral health treatment.

Representative Abigail Spanberger, who backed the bill, said in a statement: “From the earliest days of the pandemic, she — along with thousands of dedicated healthcare professionals across our country — worked tirelessly to treat patients from overcrowded waiting rooms. The paralyzing pressures these heroes face day in and day out have been greatly exacerbated by a global pandemic. The Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act would not only get much-needed help to our doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals, but it would encourage them to seek support and treatment when they need it. These heroes have been on the front lines of this pandemic for nearly two years, and I am proud to see so many of my colleagues understand that we must do what we can to protect those who work so selflessly to protect us.”

Healthcare workers in current or past COVID-19 hotspots would be the first to get the grants.

“It recognizes exactly what we’ve heard from the workforce every day is that they’re struggling and they need help. They need to be heard and they need to be taken care of. They’ve done such an amazing job taking care of all of us. This is just one small recognition that that we can make to support them,” Feist said.

The bill passed in the Senate in August, but after a small change it now will go back to be approved again. If it is passed it will go to Pres. Biden’s desk to be signed.

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