One in five people in the United States suffer from some form of mental illness and nearly 60 percent of these people don’t receive the treatment they need.
When it comes to the amount of people who don’t receive treatment for eating disorders, this number could be as high as 70 percent. To make matters worse, many people are not diagnosed early in their disorders while others don’t have adequate access to treatment.
A new bill in the U.S. Senate is hoping to improve this situation by expanding access to mental health services.
However, it will take the voices of the public, YOUR voices, to help get this bill passed.
The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680) has passed the Senate health committee and needs to come to the Senate Floor for a vote before the session ends this year in mid-July.
So, what does the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 do?
The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 does a lot! This bill:
- Supports programs to prevent suicide
- Educates teachers and other school personnel about mental illness
- Improves government coordination of services for individuals and accountability for those programs
The bill includes programs for improving treatment for substance abuse, including opioid addiction, and programs for childhood trauma. The bill also requires that government policies use the latest evidence-based medicine and that agency leaders have practical experience with mental illness.
How will this bill help those with eating disorders?
In March of this year, the Senate HELP committee agreed to include parts of the Anna Westin Act as an amendment to the Mental Health Reform Act. This is very exciting news for the eating disorder community, because it means that there is language specifically about eating disorders in the larger bill.
The bill seeks to expand training of health professionals in the diagnosis of eating disorders and emphasizes the important of early intervention, as well as updating information from the Office of Women’s Health.
Public education will include information about eating disorder diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, including weight-based stigma and bullying.
Another very important part of this bill is a clarification of existing mental health parity laws, which state that all levels of eating disorder treatment, including residential, should be covered by health insurance.
Yes, you can help make a difference!
There are five things you can do THIS WEEK to help the cause.
- Get educated! Learn about the Mental Health Reform Act here.
- Sign this petition supporting passage of the Mental Health Reform Act.
- Call or email your Senator and ask him or her to please support this bill. Follow this link, type in your address and you’ll see the names of your Senators and an email that the system will send, personalized with your information. If you prefer to make a phone call, you can find your Senators’ phone numbers online.
- Join us for a nation-wide “Twitterstorm” on Wednesday, May 25. Post Tweets about the importance of passing mental health legislation using hashtags #MentalHealthReform and #Vote4MH. Eating Recovery Center (@Eating Recovery), the Eating Disorders Coalition (@edcoalition), and the Academy for Eating Disorders (@aedweb) will all be participating in the Twitterstorm, so please retweet for us when you can that day — along with writing your own original messages.
- Last, but definitely not least, ask your friends and family members to join you in helping out with all of these actions!
Millie Plotkin, MLS is Informationist for Eating Recovery Center and partner programs. She also serves on the board of the Eating Disorders Coalition and the social media committee of the Academy for Eating Disorders.