Bipartisan House lawmakers and health groups are pushing for the inclusion of enhanced mental health resources for health care workers in the next coronavirus aid package.
Without specifying an amount, a group of 90 lawmakers called for the establishment of a grant program within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow health care employers or facilities to confidentially assess and treat the mental health of workers on the front lines of treating COVID-19 patients.
They also said Congress should fund an HHS study to identify the factors that contribute to distress and burnout, the barriers to accessing treatment, the ramifications for patient outcomes and the health care system, and ways to address these problems.
The effort is backed by health organizations including the American Medical Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association.
Health care workers on the front line of the pandemic are under enormous psychological strain. Numerous studies have found doctors and nurses suffering from high rates of depression, burnout, addiction and even suicide.
A New York City emergency room physician died of suicide last month, which her family attributed to her work at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital.
Health care workers are also at increased risk of being infected with the disease themselves, especially in instances where they do not have the right kind of personal protective equipment.
According to the International Council of Nurses, at least 900,000 health care workers across the world have been infected with COVID-19.
In early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallied just over 9,000 health care workers in the U.S. who were infected, but the number is likely significantly higher.