The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) applauds the reintroduction of the bipartisan "Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act" and strongly supports its timely passage into law.
"Emergency physicians and other health care workers risk their lives every day to protect patients and this bill ensures that our heroes on the frontlines can seek mental health care if they need it," said Mark Rosenberg, DO, MBA, FACEP, president of ACEP. "Dr. Lorna Breen's legacy will extend long after this pandemic is over. The bill carrying her name will be a lifeline for emergency physicians who absorb extraordinary levels of grief, anxiety and other stressors but feel their only option is to struggle in silence."
ACEP is grateful for the leadership of Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Todd Young (R-IN), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and Representatives Susan Wild (D-PA), David McKinley (R-WV), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Fred Upton (R-MI), Judy Chu (D-CA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), and John Katko (R-NY) for their commitment to prioritizing care for the health professionals that courageously put the needs of patients first. This bipartisan bill is also a testament to the tireless work of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes' Foundation and its mission to provide mental health support for the heroes on the frontlines.
The "Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act" authorizes funding for mental and behavioral health training and services for health care professionals, supports education campaigns to encourage healthier work conditions, and calls for research on causes of physician burnout and its impact, among other provisions.
Despite the prevalence of mental health concerns in the health care workforce, there is a legitimate fear of consequences that deters many physicians from getting the care they need.
A statement developed by ACEP with more than 40 leading medical organizations outlines recommendations for removing existing barriers to seeking treatment, including the fear of reprisal, and encouraging professional support and non-clinical mental health initiatives, such as peer support, for physicians. ACEP also supports the Joint Commission's stance that history of mental illness should not be used as an indication of a health professionals' current or future ability to practice medicine.
And, for its members, ACEP offers free mental health counseling sessions, peer-to-peer support, meditation guides and other resources.
"Changes to the culture of medicine will not happen overnight," said Dr. Rosenberg. "But the pandemic is shining a light on the urgent need to protect physician mental health and address contributing factors to burnout and stress that have been pushed under the rug for too long. We must take this opportunity to overcome real barriers to physician well-being, including stigma, that prevent physicians from seeking mental health care."