Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Grace Meng (6th District of New York)
Congresswoman spearheads letter to the President from NY congressmembers and state’s two senators urging Trump to include funding in next COVID-19 relief bill; Meng also organizes letter to congressional leadership; New York remains the epicenter of the crisis
QUEENS, NY – Today, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) led members of the New York congressional delegation in sending a letter to President Trump calling for the next coronavirus relief package to include mental health resources for frontline health care workers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the correspondence to the President, which was signed by a total of 15 New York House members and the state’s two Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, the lawmakers urged that the CARES 2.0 package contain significant funding to support the emotional well-being of health care workers serving on the front lines, so that they in turn can remain healthy for their patients.
Meng also led an identical letter that she and the New York House members sent to House and Senate leaders. New York remains the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Our brave frontline health care workers have been our heroes throughout this pandemic,” said Meng. “They have made enormous and selfless sacrifices, putting their safety on the line to care for patients and save lives. But the stress and anxiety from the exhaustive work they do – treating daily floods of coronavirus patients, high COVID-19 death rates, fear over lack of PPE, long hours, and separation from loved ones – is taking a huge emotional toll on many of these professionals. I have personally spoken with several of these health care workers. I know firsthand how vital it is to provide the resources they and their families need to help with the psychological burden that has been placed on them. The impact of this pandemic on our health care community will be long-lasting; it may even outlast the coronavirus itself. The President and congressional leaders must make the mental health needs of our health care workers an essential and urgent priority, and I will continue to call for them to do so. I thank my New York House colleagues and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for joining me in speaking out about the necessity of allocating these resources, and fighting for our heroic frontline health care workers.”
“The night before last, we held a virtual memorial service for 25 deceased nurses who had been in our union, felled by a deadly virus concentrated in New York City,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, President of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). “In the course of the service, we received news of the 26th death. Health care workers handling the death and dying in astronomical numbers, while fearing for their own health and safety, are suffering deep emotional scarring. This week’s tragic news of the suicide of one of our physician colleagues, is further evidence of the impact of this pandemic. Our frontline workers are the new ‘veterans’ who will suffer PTSD from their work in the war against the coronavirus and must receive preventative and supportive mental health services.”
The CARES 2.0 package is the proposed follow-up bill to the first CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act which was passed by Congress and signed into law last month.
As Members of the New York congressional delegation, we write to urge that you prioritize in the next CARES 2.0 package significant funding to support the mental health of our frontline health care workers. It is imperative that as we provide critical lifesaving equipment to maintain the physical health of these workers, we must also protect the mental health of these brave frontline health care workers – so that they in turn can remain healthy for their patients.
As you know, New York is the nerve center of the global COVID-19 pandemic. With over 300,000 confirmed cases and over 18,000 deaths, nearly one-third of total confirmed cases and deaths in the country are in the State of New York. Our health care system is facing a crisis of catastrophic proportions. In every corner of our nation’s health care system, our doctors, nurses, and other health care workers are being asked to battle this invisible enemy.
While there are recent global studies on the mental health impact of the coronavirus on the health care workers, we have also heard directly from our frontline health care workers the harrowing, horrific, and heartbreaking anecdotes of the conditions inside New York hospitals. Faced by the daily deluge of COVID-19 infected patients, many workers have reported significant distress, emotional strain, and immeasurable exhaustion during this pandemic response. These workers have served as emotional caretakers to the dying patients – too often relaying a final, departing message between the patient and their respective families. Because of the lethality and enormous infection rates in New York State, our health care workers have transported hundreds of dead bodies per day. Some who have been infected with the coronavirus have reported being expected to return to work – even before their full recovery. Too many workers have noted the heartache of being separated from their own families, living in separate locations out of fear of compromising the health of their loved ones. And shamefully, too many have endured heighted anxiety from being forced to risk their own lives and health because of a lack of Personal Protective Equipment.
The emotional and psychological burden placed upon these workers can even outweigh the physical burden. Furthermore, the long-term impacts on mental health is yet to be determined. As such, securing the emotional well-being and resilience of our frontline workers will be critical to facing the coronavirus and bolstering the ranks of our health care workforce.
As such, we specifically ask that any subsequent coronavirus relief packages include:
Significant funding to assess and treat the mental health of COVID-19 frontline health care workers and their immediate family members.
In the event of the health care worker’s death, ensure the immediate surviving family members continue to receive treatment.
Ensure the cost of such mental health treatment is fully covered, and at no expense of the individuals.
Provide funding to hospitals to deploy mental health professionals and clinicians to provide on-site mental health care and resources.
Expand telemedicine services to health care workers and their families.
Establish an HHS-administered COVID-19 crisis hotline for impacted health care workers, their families, and the general public.
Funding to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Department of Labor to provide grants to agencies in order to hire more mental and behavioral health professionals for agencies that need them.
As we all agree that the courage, expertise, and fortitude of our frontline health care workers is beyond commendable, we must also ensure our federal priorities to tackle this crisis include the whole health of our frontline health care workers. After all, one thing is undeniable: without these workers, our humanity has no chance of fighting back against this public health crisis.