One giant leap for the eating disorders community.
-Jenna Tregarthen, Recovery Record.
I was glued to my TV Wednesday afternoon, watching C-SPAN, as the US House debated the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, HR2646. As members from both parties stood up and proclaimed their support for the bill I dared to hope that it might actually pass. I slowly allowed myself to believe that after a 16-year marathon we were getting close to the finish line, the first of several finish lines. When the votes started coming in I held my breath but soon dissolved into tears as the YES votes multiplied. When the votes were in, the total was 422 yes votes to 2 no votes. In this very partisan Congress this was amazing in itself. But, the more amazing news is that provisions from the Anna Westin Act were included in the bill! For the first time in the history of the United Sates Congress, eating disorder specific legislation passed the US House. The bill includes key pieces of the Anna Westin Act including the following:
Information and Awareness on Eating Disorders, which allows for the update of public information, resources and prevention programs related to eating disorders to include current findings and research for the advancement of public awareness about the types of eating disorders, the prevalence and consequences of eating disorders, and ways to prevent eating disorders.
Education and Training on Eating Disorders to facilitate the identification of programs to educate and train health professionals and school personnel to identify eating disorders, intervene early and provide appropriate referral or treatment services.
Clarification of Existing Parity Rules, such that if a group health plan or insurance company provides coverage for eating disorder benefits, including residential treatment, the insurance issuer must provide the benefits consistent with insurance laws.
This was indeed a giant step and a victory for us but we are not done. Now it is on to the Senate. The Senate has a mental health reform bill that they will vote on in September. The good news is that Anna Westin Act language is included in the Senate mental health reform bill. Once the bill passes the Senate, both bills go to what is called “Conference Committee”. The Conference Committee includes people from the House and the Senate. They are charged with creating a combined bill that will go to the President for his signature.
We are close! Thank you to each and every one of you who has provided support in this journey. I am hopeful that very soon a 16 year long journey will come to a successful end and we will have Federal legislation that addresses eating disorders.
For more information about The Anna Westin Act and HR2646 go to; www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org.