As advocates for eating disorder prevention and treatment, we had much to be proud of last week when the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the Anna Westin Act. The passing of the bill marked an important moment in our history: it was the first time that legislation specifically designed to support people with eating disorders was passed with bipartisan support.
The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 passed through the Senate HELP committee on March 16th. It included important legislation from the Anna Westin Act of 2015, a bill named after a young woman who died after a five-year battle with her eating disorder.
The Anna Westin Act has represented an incredible effort on the part of the Eating Disorders Coalition to introduce a bipartisan bill into the House and Senate. The bill encourages the recognition of eating disorders a public health priority, outlining the importance of three primary factors:
Training – The bill would enable utilization of existing funds to train health professionals and school personnel to recognize eating disorders in order to support early intervention.
Access to Care – The bill would provide clarity of the intention of a 2008 bill that specified that mental health conditions must be granted the same level of care as medical conditions by insurers. This would help all of those Americans who are currently denied residential treatment coverage to access the care they need.
Truth in Advertising – The bill would require the Federal Trade Commission to evaluate the need for regulation of digital alteration of images in the media.
There is still much progress to be made toward seeing the Anna Westin Act enacted, and important work still needs to be done. It must next be voted on by the United States Senate, which is likely to happen in mid to late April.
While there are currently over 80 bipartisan congressional supporters, continued advocacy is key. Eating Recovery Center is a proud supporter of the work of the Eating Disorders Coalition and proud to add our collective voice in support for this important legislation.
To help support the bill, the Eating Disorders Coalition encourages you to reach out to your senators and congressmen and women. You can send a quick email to them here. You can also add your voice to other advocates’ (including mine!) by attending the National Lobby Day on Monday, April 18th in Washington D.C.
I hope to see you there.
Ashley Solomon, PsyD, CEDS is the Executive Clinical Director at Eating Recovery Center, Ohio.