As many as 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, but only one in 10 people with an eating disorder receive treatment
The bill will help train primary care physicians and school personnel in early intervention and identification of eating disorder symptoms, directs the National Institute of Mental Health to raise awareness, and requires residential treatment for eating disorders be covered by insurance companies
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) with Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) today introduced the Anna Westin Act to help combat eating disorders. As many as 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, but only one in 10 people with an eating disorder receive treatment. The bill will use existing funds to create grant programs to train school personnel, primary care physicians, and mental health and public health professionals on how to identify and prevent eating disorders, as well as how to intervene when behaviors associated with eating disorders have been identified. The bill clarifies the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to require that health insurance companies cover residential treatment for eating disorders.
“Millions of Americans are affected by the crippling symptoms of eating disorders but very few get the proper help they need, leading anorexia to have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder,” said Klobuchar. “Whether that is due to late detection or insufficient insurance coverage, we should be doing more to give patients like Anna the tools they need to overcome these diseases.”
Anna Westin of Chaska, Minnesota, was diagnosed with anorexia when she was 16 years old. After completing her sophomore year at the University of Oregon, Anna’s health was deteriorating quickly, and she was facing liver malfunction and dangerously low body temperatures and blood pressure. Despite the urgency of Anna’s condition, her family was informed that they had to wait until their insurance company ‘certified’ Anna’s treatment, ultimately delaying and limiting the treatment Anna received. After struggling with the disease for five years, Anna committed suicide at the age of 21. This bill is named in honor of her.
Klobuchar is currently leading the bipartisan Anna Westin Act with Senators Ayotte, Baldwin, and Capito in order to help prevent the reoccurrence of tragedies like Anna’s.
Klobuchar has been a long-standing leader in ensuring that all Americans have access to the mental health services they need. She was a cosponsor of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act that was signed into law in October 2008. The law requires health insurance companies to provide equal coverage of both mental and physical health issues. Klobuchar pushed hard for final regulations for this law, which were finally issued in December 2013.