HHS on Friday said it would make approximately $103 million in American Rescue Plan funding available to tackle healthcare worker burnout and promote mental health in the industry.
The funds, released by the Health Resources and Services Administration, will go toward several programs to help healthcare organizations in rural and medically underserved communities build resiliency among newer healthcare workers and mentor providers on how to respond to stressful situations. HRSA will distribute the money over a three-year period.
"We believe that an effort to ameliorate burnout, suicide, substance use and mental health conditions among professionals, is going to directly improve the services that they provide and ultimately improve the health of communities that HHS and HRSA are striving to support," said Dr. Luis Padilla, associate administrator of the Bureau of Health Workforce for HRSA.
Facing high patient volumes and long work hours exacerbated by the pandemic, many working in the healthcare industry have reported mental health declines and undue stress.
From May to October 2020, 49% of the nearly 21,000 healthcare workers surveyed experienced burnout, according to a 2021 study funded by the American Medical Association. The study found that burnout levels were highest among women and nonbinary people as well as speech therapists, occupational therapists and social workers.
HRSA will have several programs health systems can join to receive funding and strategies to foster healthy workplace environments.
Approximately 30 awards totaling $68 million over three years will be given to educational institutions and entities training healthcare workers early on in their careers as part of the Health and Public Safety Workforce Resiliency Training Program.
The U.S. could see a shortage of 54,100 to 139,000 physicians by 2033, according to a 2020 analysis by the Association of American Medical Colleges. HHS hopes this program could alleviate that shortage with evidence-informed planning, development and training activities to reduce burnout and suicide.
"It is essential that we provide behavioral health resources for our healthcare providers — from paraprofessionals to public safety officers — so that they can continue to deliver quality care to our most vulnerable communities," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
Ten awards equating to around $29 million will be given to healthcare organizations to support their workforces in creating a culture of wellness, resilience and mental health among employees.
One health system will receive $6 million over three years to fund tailored training and technical assistance to go alongside HRSA's workforce resiliency programs.
Applications for funding opportunities are due August 30, 2021 on the Grants.gov website.
By forming practices and protocols to support the mental health of students and current employees, Padilla said healthcare systems can help future workforces prepare for public health emergencies.
"We're asking organizations to look at what they have available to support the frontline workforce, whether that's call center hotlines, consultations, referrals to mental health services or support services for those professionals who are encountering these struggles in their both personal and professional lives," Padilla said.