Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I rise today in recognition of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and bring attention to millions of Americans struggling with eating disorders. It is not something we often talk about on this floor, but eating disorders are more common in our country than breast cancer and Alzheimer's and do not discriminate by class, race, gender or ethnicity. The all-too-sad truth is that eating disorders take the lives of 23 Americans every day and nearly 1 life every hour.
Our understanding of how eating disorders develop and progress is constantly evolving. We know there are between--and, again, because we don't have statistics except for when people die--15 and 30 million people across the country struggling with an eating disorder. We know that anorexia has the highest morality rate of any mental health disorder. Listen to that. Of any mental health disorder that you can think of, anorexia has the highest morality rate. We know that eating disorders affect women 2 1/2 times more than men, making this the important women's mental health issue.
Unfortunately, far too few of these people are getting the help they need. Only 1 in 10 people with an eating disorder will receive treatment for that disease, and for those who don't receive any treatment, the rate of recovery sharply declines, while the likelihood they will be hospitalized rises. The numbers illustrate a grim reality. Too many Americans are suffering in silence, unable to access a treatment they need to conquer their eating disorder and to go on to live healthy lives.
To help the millions of people suffering from eating disorders get the treatment they need, I have introduced the Anna Westin Act with Senator Ayotte, Senator Capito, and Senator Baldwin. We are very proud that this is a bipartisan bill that is supported by both Democrats and Republicans. As to the fact that it is led by all women Senators, it may be that our time has come, given that women are 2 1/2 times more likely than men to suffer from this disorder.
We remember in the early days when it was the women Senators who united to do something about breast cancer research or when it was women Senators who said: Why are we just studying men when it comes to various drugs and various diseases and cancer? Women have different interactions. Women have different problems. In fact, these eating disorders affect women 2 1/2 times more than men, yet, literally, hardly anything is going on with this in terms of help and funding. The number one mental health disorder that leads to death and has the highest morality rate is anorexia.
The bill is named in honor of Anna Westin of Chaska, MN, who was diagnosed with anorexia when she was 16 years old. Her health started deteriorating quickly after she completed her sophomore year at the University of Oregon. She began suffering from liver malfunction and dangerously low body temperatures and blood pressure. Even though her condition was urgent, Anna was told she had to wait until the insurance company certified her treatment. This ultimately delayed and severely limited the treatment that she received. After struggling with the disease for 5 years, she committed suicide at the age of 21.
My colleagues, we have a moral obligation to help people like Anna and families like the Westins, and we cannot afford to wait any longer. Last week marked 16 years since Anna's death, yet people with eating disorders are still not guaranteed coverage for lifesaving residential treatment by insurance companies. The bipartisan Anna Westin Act fixes this problem by clarifying that the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act specifies that residential treatment
for eating disorders must be covered. We are talking about when a doctor diagnoses an eating disorder and believes, after trying different treatments, that there is an immediate emergency situation, that there should be coverage for residential treatment, which has been found to be really helpful with eating disorders because it helps to change how someone is eating and what they are doing and how they are interacting and how they are going on with their day-to-day life.
My friend, the late Senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone, fought hard for that Wellstone and Domenici mental health parity law. As Paul always insisted, a mental health parity bill is about equality and fairness. It is time patients struggling with an eating disorder receive that equality and fairness. It is time that so many of these women who suffer from this disease, which is much more particular to women than to men, get to receive that treatment that you get for other kinds of mental health disorders. This bill would ensure that patients like Anna Westin aren't prevented from getting the treatment they need simply because their insurance doesn't cover it. Eating disorders become life-threatening when left untreated, making early detection absolutely critical. That is why this bill would also use existing funds to create grant programs to train school employees, primary health professionals, and mental health and public health professionals on how to identify eating disorders, as well as how to intervene when behaviors associated with an eating disorder have been identified.
I think most young people today know someone who has an eating disorder. I remember in college a number of young women who had eating disorders, but they were hiding it. Nobody did anything about it. I have no idea how they are doing now.
Making this investment is a no-brainer. By drawing on existing funds for the training programs, this bipartisan bill is designed to have no cost associated with it. These commonsense and long overdue actions will help give those suffering from eating disorders the tools they need to overcome these diseases and prevent more tragedies like Anna's. We wish that Anna was still with us. We wish that she could have graduated from college, started a career, and had children of her own. Well, it may be too late for Anna. We know she would want us to do everything we can to create a world where eating disorders are acknowledged, are recognized, are treated, and are prevented.
I am so proud this bill has been out there for a few years. This is the first time this last year where it has been a bipartisan bill led by four women Senators, two Democrats and two Republicans. The time has come. With affected families in every corner of our country, I invite all of my colleagues to join us in support of this bipartisan bill. We must act now to give the millions of Americans struggling with eating disorders the help they need. Doing so will not just prevent suffering; it will help save lives.
Thank you, Mr. President.
I yield the floor.