HARRISBURG—The House Human Services Committee today passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks) to create a public awareness campaign to help frontline health care workers and first responders find help for the mental health challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Bill 1420
, known as the Health Care Heroes Bill, would direct the Department of Human Services to establish a public awareness campaign to provide information regarding the programs and services available for first responders, health care workers, and other frontline workers suffering from mental health issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right now, these invaluable workers are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and substance use disorder,” Thomas said. “We need to care for those who selflessly care for others, and that means, as a first step, making sure our health care workers, first responders and other frontline workers and their families know there is help available.”
Thomas crafted House Bill 1420 after a hearing of the bipartisan House Mental Health Caucus, which Thomas chairs. Thomas took testimony from local health care administrators, nurses and physicians, who recounted stories of long hours, short staffs and equipment shortages.
“Dealing with this pandemic created a multitude of emotions among our health care workers,” said Patricia Stover, RN, MSN, NE-BC, vice-president, patient services/CNO for Doylestown Health. “There was also a great deal of stress along with physical and mental exhaustion. Feelings of grief, fatigue, anger, fear and hopelessness were all contributors to this stress.”
“In the past 14 months our health care workers have been faced with elevated levels of anxiety, depression, isolation, PTSD and burnout,” said Jennifer Collins, PsyD, chief well-being officer and clinical psychologist at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. “In September 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, a survey from the National Institute of Healthcare Management revealed that 76% of health care workers are now reporting burnout and exhaustion.”
“While more needs to be done, this is the first step in decreasing the stigma of asking for help,” Thomas said.
Representative Wendi Thomas
178th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster