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July 29, 2020

Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act Introduced in Senate

ACEP strongly supports S. 4349, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday, July 29 (press release). 

Named for the EM physician who was tragically lost to suicide in April, S. 4349 would create behavioral health and well-being training programs and a national campaign to encourage health care professionals to seek support and treatment. The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act would also initiate a federal study into health care professional mental health and burnout and provide grants to establish and expand mental health support services to those providing care to COVID-19 patients.

Physician mental health is a major priority for ACEP, which has been working with the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation to champion the issue at the federal level. ACEP worked with Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jack Reed (D-RI) on this legislation, and we secured the inclusion of some important provisions, including that the HHS study specifically examine concerns related to licensing and credentialing as a barrier to physicians seeking/accessing mental/behavioral health treatment.

This bill is the latest step in our efforts to break down barriers that prevent EM physicians from seeking emotional support and care. In June 2020, ACEP and more than 40 leading medical associations, academics and psychiatry experts set forth recommendations to remove existing barriers to seeking treatment—including the fear of reprisal—while encouraging professional and peer support.

In addition to S. 4249, ACEP also supports the following proposed bills addressing physician mental health concerns:

  • H.R. 7255: The Coronavirus Health Care Worker Wellness Act would establish a grant program to ensure emergency physicians and other frontline health care providers have access to the mental health resources they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. ACEP helped inform and develop this legislation and strongly supports its inclusion in upcoming COVID-19 legislation.
  • H.R. 1646: The Helping Emergency Responders Overcome (HERO) Act of 2019 would create a data system at CDC to capture public safety officer suicide incidences and study successful interventions, authorize grants for peer support behavioral health and wellness programs within fire departments and EMS agencies, and develop best practices for addressing PTSD. At ACEP’s request, Dr. Mike Burgess (R-TX) successfully offered an amendment to the bill that establishes a grant program to provide behavioral health and wellness programs for health care providers. 
  • H.R. 2519: Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act of 2019 would establish grants to support the provision of community follow-up services for individuals who present at the emergency department with an acute psychiatric emergency. 
  • H.R. 4861: The Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act would create grants to help improve the identification, assessment, and treatment of patients in the ED who are at-risk of suicide. 
  • H.R. 5619: The Suicide Prevention Act would institute grants to hospital EDs for programs to prevent self-harm and suicide attempts among patients after discharge.

In addition to our advocacy efforts, ACEP recently launched the Physician Wellness Hub, designed to make it easier for EM physicians to find the right support during these very trying times. The Wellness Hub offers options for seeking peer support and a variety of professional crisis counseling options. It houses a growing library of resources organized by source of stress (financial, legal, clinical, family, etc.) and mental health concerns (PTSD, suicide, burnout and more).

Though physician mental health concerns are exacerbated by the uniquely stressful atmosphere surrounding COVID-19, emergency physicians know this is not a new problem. The EM profession is an incredibly important but also very difficult job that can take a physical and emotional toll. This December 2019 ACEP Now article provides prior history of ACEP’s ongoing wellness efforts, including the introduction of the Member Wellness & Assistance Program as a new benefit for ACEP members.

We are encouraged by the bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate who are prioritizing efforts to designate critical mental health resources for emergency physicians and other health care providers. ACEP members are encouraged to take a few minutes to contact your legislators to urge them to support S. 4349 and H.R. 7255.

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