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Lawmakers reintroduce bills to prevent suicide, burnout among health care workers

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Washington — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) have reintroduced legislation intended to help reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals.

The bills – S. 610 and H.R. 1667 – are known as the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act in honor of Breen, a physician in Charlottesville, VA, who died by suicide in April 2020. Breen had been working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. 

The pandemic has led to high levels of stress and burnout for health care professionals, who have experienced the loss of patients and colleagues to the virus since early 2020, a press release from Kaine’s office states. They also fear for their own health and safety and that of their families.

“In my conversations with frontline health care workers over the past year, I’ve seen that this crisis is going to have a significant impact on the lives of health care professionals for a very long time,” Kaine said in the release.

On March 4, the day it was reintroduced in the Senate, Kaine’s bill was referred to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Wild’s legislation was reintroduced March 8 in the House and referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Along with promoting mental and behavioral health among health care workers, the legislation supports training to prevent suicide and burnout and increases awareness about suicide and mental health concerns, according to the release. The legislation also calls for research into the causes and impact of burnout among health care professionals.

The American College of Emergency Physicians announced its support for the legislation in its own March 4 press release.

“Emergency physicians and other health care workers risk their lives every day to protect patients, and this bill ensures that our heroes on the front lines can seek mental health care if they need it,” ACEP President Mark Rosenberg said in the release.

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