On April 18, 2016, hundreds of people from around the country will gather on Capital Hill for the Eating Disorder Coalition’s Lobby Day. This event, held each spring and fall, is an opportunity for those affected by eating disorders to come together for a common cause. Lobby Day draws eating disorder sufferers and those in recovery, friends, family members, and healthcare professionals. After a brief message training session, participants travel with their state delegations throughout Capitol Hill speaking to congressmen and women, Senators, and staffers about important eating disorder legislation.
This year, The Eating Disorder Coalition’s Lobby Day will focus on the Anna Westin Act of 2015. The Act recently achieved a tremendous milestone by passing the Senate HELP Committee. With bipartisan support from day one, the Act has laid out a simple framework for helping eating disorder sufferers obtain the critical treatment they need for survival. The Act carries a zero CBO score and requires very little legwork to integrate:
- Training: existing NIMH and SAMHSA funds train health professionals and school staff on how to recognize warning signs and intervene early
- Clarity of Parity: clarifies the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 to include coverage for residential treatment for eating disorders
- Truth in Advertising: require the Federal Trade Commission to study and report on whether or not regulations are needed for digitally altered images
I have had the privilege of attending Lobby Days since moving to the DC metro area in 2011. They quickly became my favorite advocacy activity. As someone who has a personal story and a professional background in eating disorders, I find it extremely important to support endeavors to provide treatment for all who need it. At Lobby Day, we get the opportunity to speak directly to lawmakers not only about legislation like the Anna Westin Act, but also about our personal experiences and the things we see working in the field each day. Never have I felt so empowered to continue the fight as when I’ve finished speaking with a lawmaker about these issues. They do listen, they do acknowledge the critical needs of those who suffer, and they do see the need for better coverage for treatment.
If you are in the DC area, and even if you aren’t, I highly recommend trying to attend a Lobby Day. Use your voice to advocate for yourself, or use it to advocate for someone who can’t speak up right now. To read more about Lobby Day or to register to attend, visit the Eating Disorders Coalition at www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org.