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Congress Spent $ 900 Billion to Relieve COVID But Cut $ 3 Million to Address Mental Illness in Healthcare Workers

The federal government’s spending bill and the newly passed coronavirus relief program were a vehicle for seemingly all political priorities under the dome of the Capitol. It included landmark climate change legislation, a long-desired deal to end surprise medical billing, and billions of dollars for everything from Amtrak to vaccine delivery and relief from coronavirus-related funeral costs.

But despite 6,000 pages and $ 2.3 trillion in taxpayer dollars – including $ 900 billion for COVID relief – a remarkable article was left on the cutting room floor. At the last minute, legislation that would have earmarked just $ 3 million in funding for a program to tackle the dramatic worsening rates of burnout and mental illness among frontline healthcare workers – which are under unprecedented pressure due to the pandemic – has been abandoned. the text. And now each side is blaming the other.

The bill is entitled The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. Its namesake, Lorna Breen, is a tragic example of the pandemic’s toll on these workers. A longtime doctor in the emergency room, Breen died by suicide in April as the virus exploded in the and overwhelmed doctors and nurses treating the sick and dying. As the pandemic continued nationwide, it “brought the well-being of physicians to a critical point,” wrote the president of the American Medical Association in September.

Introduced in July by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate, the bill had broad support on and off Capitol Hill. Almost all of the country’s major healthcare and medical groups, including major groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals and emergency room doctors, had approved the legislation. It is rare for these groups, which often compete with each other on policy issues, to be on the same page on a bill.

“Everyone is in favor,” said Corey Feist, Breen’s brother-in-law and co-founder of the Dr. Breen Heroes Foundation, an advocacy organization created in his honor. “It tells me that we’re on to something, that we’re going in the right direction.

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