Mental Health Awareness and Resources for Health Care Workers amidst COVID-19

Last Updated: Jun 2, 2021

Legislation at both the state and federal levels aims to address the mental well-being of health care professionals.

State House:

Healthcare Heroes Act - House Bill 1420 (Rep. Wendi Thomas)

The Healthcare Heroes Act (HB 1420) establishes a public awareness campaign to provide information regarding the programs and services available for first responders, health care workers, and other workers suffering from mental health issues related to COVID-19.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) supports this legislation and recently sent this letter to House expressing our support.

More specifically, this legislation directs the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare to establish a public awareness campaign to provide information to the general public concerning the programs and services available for first responders, health care workers, other frontline workers, and their families experiencing mental health issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including, but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder.  Additionally, the Secretary, in establishing the public awareness campaign, shall develop outreach efforts and provide information to the general public on the link between mental health issues and the COVID-19 pandemic, including, but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and substance use disorder. This legislation directs the Secretary to provide information to the public on the programs provided by the department and other federal, state, and local social services and mental health agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It even goes so far as to direct how and the manner in which the Secretary must make this information available by listing multiple forms of radio and print media to reach the broadest possible audiences.

We anticipate the House to quickly pass this legislation and send it over to the Senate in the near future.

Please urge your state Representative to vote yes and help advance this key legislation that seeks to assist those that have given the most during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act – S.610/H.R.1667 (Sen. Tim Kaine; Rep. Susan Wild)

The Dr. Lorna Breen Act is a key piece of legislation at the federal level aimed at protecting the mental wellbeing of health care professionals. PAMED supports this legislation and recently sent letters to Sen. Casey and Sen. Toomey expressing our support.

Dr. Lorna Breen served as the emergency room director at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and dedicated her life to the care of her patients. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Breen was at ground zero of the crisis and along with fellow health care workers across the country, she was both victim and witness to the stresses of the pandemic. Overwhelmed and under constant pressure, Dr. Breen, unfortunately, took her own life.

The health care workers “in the trenches” of fighting COVID-19 are risking their lives and the lives of their family members. These workers are facing not only physical health risks, but the added emotional brunt of working through this crisis as they struggle to provide appropriate care in an increasingly high-stress, ultra-intensive environment. With the memory of Dr. Breen comes the need to meaningfully address the topic of mental health for physicians. This critical legislation aims to prevent suicide and burnout among health care professionals and mitigate their mental and behavioral health conditions. Additionally, it contains a provision for a comprehensive study aimed at understanding the factors contributing to burnout and the mental health conditions of health care professionals.

A few important provisions included in this legislation are as follows:

  • Establishes grants for training health profession students, residents, or health care professionals in evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders. The grants would also help improve health care professionals’ well-being and job satisfaction.

  • Seeks to identify and disseminate evidence-informed best practices for reducing and preventing suicide and burnout among health care professionals, training health care professionals in appropriate strategies, and promoting their mental and behavioral health and job satisfaction.

  • Establishes a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign targeting health care professionals to encourage them to seek support and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns.

  • Establishes grants for employee education, peer-support programming, and mental and behavioral health treatment; health care providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots will be prioritized.

  • Establishes a comprehensive study on health care professional mental and behavioral health and burnout, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on such professionals’ health.

The Dr. Lorna Breen Act was introduced in the both the U.S. Senate (Sen. Kaine) and the U.S. House of Representatives (Rep. Wild) as companion bills. The Senate version of the bill, S.610, appears to be the vehicle to advance this legislation forward. S.610 recently was favorably voted out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and will be brought up before the full Senate by means of a consent decree and if there are no objections, it will move quickly over to the U.S. House.

This legislation is supported by more than 70 leading medical societies and mental health advocacy groups and if passed would be the first legislation of its kind to address the mental health of this nation’s health workforce.

Please support those who have sacrificed the most and made themselves the most vulnerable while serving on the front lines of the pandemic. It is important that your U.S. Congressman hear your voice of support on this issue as this bill will likely be before the U.S. House in the near future, where its fate will be determined. One other key piece of information is that the House companion bill (H.R.1667) was introduced by Pennsylvania Congresswoman Susan Wild. It would be a nice gesture for Representative Wild’s constituents to reach out commending her for the time and attention to this important issue.

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