My interest in the political process changed when I volunteered to participate in Spring Lobby Day for the Eating Disorders Coalition on April 18, 2016 as a representative of IFEDD (International Federation of Eating Disorder Dietitians). Although I grew up around politics my entire life — my mother worked for Governor Mario Cuomo of New York State and my husband was the mayor of Ardsley, NY, a small Westchester County village for six years — I never truly understood how the political process worked.
On April 18th, I visited offices and spoke to staff from both Senators and Congressmen/women to lobby for passage of The Anna Westin Act. This legislation is poised to be a landmark victory for eating disorder sufferers and their families. The bill is still waiting for a vote in Congress. I walked in and out of offices with Team New York/New Jersey. We were a small group of volunteers with a team leader for the Eating Disorders Coalition named Gail Schoenbach. Gail has been lobbying for the Eating Disorders Coalition for many years and she directed us on how to speak to people in the Congressional offices. We wanted to bring a face and story to the topic of eating disorders and we each had a chance to talk about the impact that eating disorders has had in our own lives.
The Anna Westin Act was introduced by two Florida eating disorders champions in spring 2015 — Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), introduced the companion bill into the Senate and it is receiving overwhelming bipartisan support.
Anna Westin was a young woman from Minnesota who died from her eating disorder after she was denied insurance coverage for residential treatment. Due to her unrelenting illness, she ultimately took her own life. The Anna Westin Foundation was created by her family to ensure that this does not happen to any more eating disorder patients. The foundation is working with the Eating Disorders Coalition – a consortium of treatment centers, providers and organizations whose mission is to help make eating disorders the public health priority that it is.
This legislation aims to address what has become known as the “three T’s” – Training, Treatment and Truth in Advertising.
- The “Training” refers to educating health professionals such as MDs, nurses, school personnel such as psychologists and health teachers – on detecting eating disorders in youth during its earliest stages. We know that early identification and intervention offer the best chance of full recovery. The funds for this training will come directly from the office of Health and Human Services.
- The “Treatment” refers to “Clarity of Parity.” This means that current mental health parity law must be clarified to provide residential treatment service coverage by insurance companies for eating disorders in the same manner as other illnesses.
- The “Truth in Advertising” refers to legislation that would require a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, studying whether regulation is needed for digitally altered images of humans in advertising, and if so, strategies to achieve such regulation. This is part of the house, and not the senate version of the bill.
Following is a link to the full Senate version of the bill: http://www.anad.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/BILLS-114s1865is.pdf
Following is a link to the full House of Representatives version of the bill: http://www.anad.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/BILLS-114hr2515ih.pdf
Please contact your local congressmen/women and urge them to vote YES to the Anna Westin Act. Here is how you can find out who they are: http://www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org/inner_template/get_involved/take-action.html – /7
Feature photo via Wikipedia.