Chairman Ryan Statement at House Wellness and Office of Employee Assistance (OEA) Hearing

2021-02-18 10:12

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), Chair of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on House Wellness and Office of Employee Assistance (OEA) Hearing:

I am pleased to welcome everyone to our first Legislative Branch hearing for the fiscal year 2022 cycle. We have 14 hearings planned for this year, with 11 consisting of  traditional budget hearings.

The first three hearings will focus predominantly on events of January 6, 2021; the security failures, physical damage, and the state of the health and wellness of the Capitol workforce. While I am excited to start the 2022 cycle, it is with a heavy heart I remind us all of the losses we endured at the hands of a mob of insurrectionists that attacked our representative democracy. It is clear there were many failures on that fateful day and sadly lives were lost, including Officer Brian Sicknick and Officer Howard Liebengood.

I hope we can use these first three hearings to examine the events of January 6; fix what went wrong, adapt and evolve to ensure that the House and its Members, staff and campus workforce can safely continue to work and carry out their duties.

We are going to have some tough decisions to make over the next few months. While this subcommittee is small in size, it has a very important function and I am proud to be working with all my colleagues to address any physical changes needed to ensure the Capitol Complex is safe for Members of Congress to carry out our constitutional duties; provide resources to our Capitol Hill community to heal from this traumatic event; maintain a safe and open campus as much as possible, so that visitors from across the country and around the world can witness representative democracy in action.

So, let’s get started.  Today our hearing is going to focus on the Office of Employee Assistance, the House Wellness Center and the ways these offices are working to support the Capitol community through the stress and trauma of not only the January 6 attack on the Capitol, but throughout the COVID-19 pandemic this past year.  Our witnesses are Mr. Bryan Weiss, the Manager of the House Wellness Center and Mr. Paul Tewksbury, the Director of the House Office of Employee Assistance.  Mr. Weiss, Mr. Tewksbury, thank you for being here today to discuss the programs of support your offices provide to the House community.

In a year full of trauma and hurt, with the apex being the Insurrection on January 6th, our human resources entities within the Capitol Complex have adapted to the evolving and increasing mental health needs of our campus. We are interested today in exploring the response to staff, Members, and our Capitol Police force since January 6th and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; accessibility of services and outreach plans; how OEA and Wellness are providing virtual or hybrid care; what interagency partnerships are they utilizing to support themselves during this increased time of need; and how OEA and Wellness are assessing the long-term mental health and wellness on Capitol Hill beyond the traumatic events of the past year.

We are thankful for your leadership and the staff of both of your organizations who work so hard to help Members, staff, police, and the all those who work so hard to make the House run.

I look forward to your testimony today and working with you to continue building support for individuals and teams through stressful and traumatic times.

117th Congress