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Health Care Practitioners Welcome Senate Passage of Breen Act

Health Care Practitioners Welcome Senate Passage of Breen Act

On the evening of February 17, the US Senate voted for the final passage of the much-needed Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (H.R. 1667).

The Act was named in memory of Dr. Lorna Breen, a Virginia physician who worked on the front lines of the pandemic in New York and died by suicide in the Spring of 2020. Breen’s tragedy—which took place when New York CIty’s Covid death toll was at its height—drove concerns about clinician mental health into the spotlight and raised public awareness about the mental and emotional struggles of health practitioners.

Once signed by President Biden, the Breen Act will lay the groundwork to provide resources to help destigmatize and provide better access to mental and behavioral wellness support for nurses, physicians, and other health care workers. The bill’s provisions include, among other things: establishing grants for training health care professionals on ways to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions; grant funding for employee education, peer support programming, and behavioral health treatment; and creation of a national education and awareness campaign focused on encouraging health care workers to seek support and treatment.

“When you see statistics indicating nurses die by suicide at a considerably higher rate than non-nurses, you quickly realize the critical importance and timing of this legislation.”

“When you see statistics indicating nurses die by suicide at a considerably higher rate than non-nurses, you quickly realize the critical importance and timing of this legislation,” said ENA President Jennifer Schmitz, MSN, EMT-P, CEN, CPEN, CNML, FNP-C, NE-BC. “Our country’s mental health crisis has only worsened during the pandemic, and emergency nurses can certainly attest to the stress, fatigue, and burnout they’ve experienced.

Schmitz added that passage of the Breen Act “will deliver help to health care workers, ultimately saving lives and preserving their ability to provide the best care possible to patients.”

In a February 18 statement, April N. Kapu, DNP, APRN, ACNP-BC, FAANP, FCCM, FAAN, president of AANP, remarked: “This historic pandemic has taken a heavy emotional toll on nurse practitioners [NPs] and other health care workers across our nation. The importance of passing this bill can’t be overstated. By providing much-needed mental health services and support to NPs, registered nurses, physicians, and other health care providers, we are offering a lifeline to those who often put their patients before themselves. Taking care of health care providers’ mental health positively impacts their ability to serve others and will help prevent suicide among so many who are feeling extreme burnout.”

Breen’s surviving siblings also applauded the Senate passage of the act. In a video, Jennifer Breen Feist and Corey Feist, co-founders of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation, cheered the bill as it completed passage through Congress: “We want to take a moment with you to pause and let all those health care professionals know that we heard you and we have been working diligently to support you. We owe each of you our deepest gratitude for all you’ve done for us and for this country.”