Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, named for Virginia doctor who died by suicide, passes Congress

“It’s a huge acknowledgment to everyone who has worked so tirelessly on our behalf that we see you, and we hear you, and we work hard to help and support you,” said Corey Feist, Breen’s brother. brother-in-law and co-founder of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation. “On a more personal level, Lorna cared so deeply for her co-workers… This passing of the law is an extension of her caring for her co-workers in the deepest possible way.”

Breen treated coronavirus patients in a New York The city’s emergency room at the start of the pandemic in 2020, when hospital beds there were flooded with patients and deaths soared. Breen caught the virus herself and returned to work after taking minimal time to recover, but quickly appeared withdrawn. Her family encouraged her to return home to Charlottesville to take a break and seek mental health treatment.

At the time of her death, she had recently co-authored a paper on the “alarming prevalence” of burnout among ER clinicians. And although Breen has never shown signs of burnout, her family fears that she, like countless other healthcare workers, is silently bearing the burden of her job and resisting seeking help by mental health – fearing professional repercussions.

When her family helped Breen get treatment, “Lorna thought she was going to lose her license to practice medicine in New York because she had mental health treatment once in her life,” Feist said, noting that she believed in it so strongly even though she was against the law. “She explained this to us from her hospital bed at UVA that she was going to lose her license to practice medicine.”

Feist and his wife, Breen’s sister, Jennifer Breen Feist, started the foundation after a “collective plea for help” from healthcare workers following Breen’s death, and soon began working with Kaine on legislation. in his name.

Along with a national awareness campaign, the bill also provides federal grants to health care providers to develop treatment and peer support programs as well as train employees on strategies to deal with health issues. mental health, addiction and to prevent suicide.

Kaine said the bill’s path through Congress was unusual given that funding for these grant programs was provided for in the US bailout last year before the Lorna Breen legislation was passed. The Department of Health and Human Services began distributing more than $100 million in grants to health care providers across the country, including three in Virginia, last month.

Kaine said passage of the bill will provide a permanent framework to continue supporting healthcare workers long after the pandemic is over.

“This Bill Breen deals with an issue that was acute before covid, but will have a very long aftermath once covid is in the rearview mirror, and it is ultimately about what Jennifer and Corey: They really want a culture change,” Kaine said in an interview on Friday.

Part of Breen’s family’s work through the foundation has focused on ensuring that state regulations in no way suggest healthcare workers could be penalized for disclosing their health histories. mental illness and for communicating to healthcare workers that it was okay to ask for help. Feist cited a recent Medscape survey of 13,000 doctors in which 43% said the reason they didn’t seek help for burnout or depression was because they “don’t want to risk to be disclosed to the medical board”. Another quarterback said he was worried his colleagues would find out.

Feist said a particularly important part of the Breen legislation is that it also provides for an in-depth study of the prevalence and causes of burnout and mental health issues among healthcare workers, which, according to Feist, will further illuminate the policy needs of states and the federal government.

“When we created [the Lorna Breen legislation], that was the start of the pandemic,” Feist said. “The impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the workforce has now amplified dramatically, which means we are literally starting here from a policy perspective to support workforce wellbeing. work.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the crisis text line on 741741.

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