legislation victoriesMental Health Parity: Legislation Victories

Two recent legislation victories in the battle for mental health parity will help eating disorder sufferers receive the critical help they need. On March 16, 2016, The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 passed the Senate HELP Committee. The Act included key aspects of the Anna Westin Act of 2015:

  • Training for medical professionals on early identification of eating disorders
  • Enhanced information
  • Resources and public service announcements to help improve early identification in the public sector
  • Clarification of existing mental health parity law to improve insurance coverage for residential treatment

Anna Westin Act

The Anna Westin Act was championed by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), after being introduced just 8 months ago by Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). With bipartisan support from the very beginning, the Anna Westin Act gained ground quickly for it’s low-cost solutions to clarifying existing parity law. Named for Anna Westin, a young woman from Minnesota who died from anorexia at age 21, the Act endeavored to bring support to those who suffer. Thankfully, lawmakers saw the need for these important parity clarifications and worked to make it a reality for the millions who suffer from eating disorders.

Coming on the heels of this legislative victory is another milestone in eating disorder advocacy efforts. In mid-March, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) and Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2) joined with 18 colleagues to submit a letter to the Committee on Appropriations’ Defense Subcommittee requesting inclusion of eating disorders for Department of Defense research programs.

The letter specifically asked that eating disorders become eligible for research funding in the Army’s Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer with eating disorders. Studies show that there is an even higher prevalence in the military. The journal Military Medicine published a study that found a prevalence rate of 29.6% female cadets and 33.6% active duty females are at risk for developing an eating disorder. Eating disorder research receives very little funding- just $0.93 per person as opposed to $44 per person for Autism research.

Increased Awareness of Prevention Programs

If eating disorders receive funding under the PRMRP, the goal will be to increase health and well-being throughout the military family, including active duty, veterans, retired servicemembers, and families. Increased awareness, improved prevention programs, and more treatment options will help servicemembers recover and continue with their service and goals for their personal and professional lives.