Castlewood Eating Disorder Treatment Center Blog

Lobbying for the Anna Westin Act

Guest post by Annalee Plumb, LPC, NCC, CADC- Director of Treatment Services Walking through the halls of our country’s capitol on my way to a senator’s office to lobby for the Anna Westin Act, I have never felt more American. As constituents, Castlewood’s Clinical Director, Nicole Siegfried, and I made our way through the underground tunnels between the house and the senate meeting congressmen staffers from Missouri and Alabama. We were there to ask for support on the bill and while we had been prepped in advance for stoic expressions and non-committal attitudes, I was not prepared for the realization that our leaders and their staff knew little to nothing of the deadly consequences of eating disorders. As well intentioned as they all were, comments such as “eating disorders are people who don’t like to eat right?” and “I could use a little of that” saddened me and the awareness of just how little the general public still knows was clear. With this the pieces came together for me, “This is EXACTLY why the Anna Westin Act is here!” Training is an essential part of the act that would allow for better education and consequently better and earlier treatment. Our leaders in Washington were kind, welcoming and listened politely. However, I ask them again, after having allowed me to educate them on the prevalence and severity of this deadly mental illness, support the Anna Westin Act and in turn save the lives of those suffering from an eating disorder. Castlewood Treatment Center is proud to be part of the lobbying efforts encouraging congress to support the Anna Westin Act. Today, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses (20%). They are present across people of all ages, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups, but women are 2.5 times more likely than men to have an eating disorder. NIMH estimates that the prevalence of eating disorders in the U.S. is approximately 10% of the population. Rep. Ted Deutch [D-FL-21] and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL-27] introduced the Anna Westin Act of 2015 (H.R. 2515) to address eating disorders early identification, prevention, treatment, and contributing factors of the illness. Senators Amy Klobuchar [D-MN], Kelly Ayotte [R-NH], Shelley Moore Capito [R-WV] and Tammy Baldwin [D-WI] introduced the companion bill of the Anna Westin Act (S. 1865), the first Senate eating disorders-specific legislation to receive bipartisan support at introduction. The Anna Westin Act, named after a woman who lost her life as a result of her struggle with anorexia and her inability to obtain the proper treatment, clarifies congressional intent in the implementation of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Eating disorders are treatable when recognized and addressed properly. Therefore, the Anna Westin Act aims to improve training and provide clarity of parity in order to ensure eating disorders receive equal quality of treatment and coverage as other illnesses receive. Enactment would: help prevent eating disorders by training health professionals on the early identification and intervention when precursory symptoms and behaviors arise; provide better treatment coverage to those affected by the disorders, thereby decreasing out-of-pocket treatment costs; and shed light on the harmful effects of altered body images in advertising. The Anna Westin Act is written to reduce the use of altered images of individuals in advertisements and to help those affected by eating disorders get the care they need by focusing on improved training and the clarity of parity: Training– Using NIMH and SAMHSA funds, the bill provides training for health professionals, school personnel, and the public to identify eating disorders, intervene early and prevent behaviors that may lead to eating disorders. Clarity of Parity– Clarifies that the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 includes residential treatment for all mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Truth in Advertising– The House bill (H.R. 2515) requires the FTC to study and report on whether regulation is needed for digitally altered images of humans in advertising and if so, strategies to achieve regulation.

How can you help? Contact your local senator and representative and let them know their constituents support the Anna Westin Act.