‘Milestone policy’ on physician mental health one step away from becoming law

February 24, 2022

2 min read

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The Senate recently passed a bill to address the stigma that health care professionals often face when seeking mental health services.

The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act is named after an ED physician who took her own life in April 2020 after treating patients with COVID-19. The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature.

Image of burnout

A bill intended to help improve physicians’ mental health is awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature.
Photo source: Adobe stock.

In a 2021 survey conducted by The Physicians Foundation, 20% of physicians said they knew of a physician who “has either considered, attempted or died by suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The survey also revealed that the number of physicians who often experience burnout rose from 40% in 2018 to 61% in 2021. Other research has indicated that about 6,000 ED physicians in the U.S. contemplated suicide and almost 400 had a suicide attempt in 2018.

According to a press release, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act will:

  • establish funding to train health profession students, residents and health care professionals on evidence-informed strategies that reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions and substance use disorders as well as improve well-being and job satisfaction;
  • establish grants intended for employee education, peer-support programming and mental and behavioral health treatment, with health care providers in “current or former COVID-19 hotspots” receiving precedence;
  • identify and distribute evidence-informed best practices for reducing and preventing suicide and burnout among health care professionals and promoting mental and behavioral health and job satisfaction;
  • create a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign geared toward health care professionals that urges them to seek support and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns; and
  • develop a comprehensive study on health care professional mental and behavioral health and burnout, including the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their health.

Medical societies applauded the Senate’s passage of the act.

“The Lorna Breen Act is a milestone policy that, through vital grants to health care entities and long overdue investments in mental health resources, will help prevent incidences of suicide, substance use disorders and other mental health conditions among physicians,” the American Academy of Family Physicians, ACP, AAP, American Osteopathic Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American Psychiatric Association said in a joint statement. “Amid a public health emergency, this is more important than ever.”

AMA also lauded the Senate’s action.

“These issues have always been present in medicine, and the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed them to the forefront,” AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD, said in a statement. “The AMA is grateful the Breen family advocated for this legislation, and that Congress listened.”

The societies were among more than 70 medical organizations who had endorsed the act as it moved through the House and Senate.


2021 survey of America’s physicians. https://physiciansfoundation.org/physician-and-patient-surveys/the-physicians-foundation-2021-physician-survey/. Accessed Feb. 24, 2022.

AMA statement on Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. https://www.ama-assn.org/press-center/press-releases/ama-statement-dr-lorna-breen-health-care-provider-protection-act. Published Feb. 18, 2022. Accessed Feb. 24, 2022.

Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation hails Senate passage of legislation protecting health care workers’ mental health. https://drlornabreen.org/we-did-it/. Published Feb. 17, 2022. Accessed Feb. 24, 2022.

Physicians applaud passage of Lorna Breen Act to prioritize mental health. https://www.aafp.org/news/media-center/statements/physicians-applaud-passage-of-lorna-breen-act-to-prioritize-mental-health.html. Published Feb. 23, 2022. Accessed Feb. 24, 2022.

The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. The legislation. https://drlornabreen.org/about-the-legislation/. Accessed Feb. 24, 2022.

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