Erica Stocker of Washington, D.C.-based law firm McDermott Will&Emery attended the Eating Disorders Coalition Lobby Day May 13 on ANAD’s behalf. She sent back the following report.
The group poses for a photo before meetings on Capitol Hill.
EDC Board President Johanna Kandel addresses the crowd during the lunch briefing with Brittany Viola Gonzalez and Dr. Tyson looking on.
The morning began with message training, to discuss the talking points for the day and the overall messages to convey to the various members of Congress with whom we would be meeting. The primary message for the day was to encourage each office to support the soon-to-be-introduced Anna Westin Act. The legislation will be introduced by EDC champions, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in the near future. The bill is named after Anna Westin, a young Minnesotan who committed suicide as a direct result of her battle with anorexia in February 2000. Since that time, Anna’s family has turned their grief into something positive by founding the Anna Westin Foundation and working to ensure that tragedies such as Anna’s are prevented in the future. For more information on Anna Westin, visit the EDC website.
The legislation is a comprehensive eating disorders bill that will address the “Three T’s” – Training, Treatment and Truth in Advertising. It will help those affected with eating disorders get the treatment they need and deserve. Specifically:
- Training – Using current HHS funds, the bill would help train health professionals, school personnel and the public on how to identify eating disorders, and how to help prevent the development of behaviors that may lead to eating disorders.
- Treatment – The bill would clarify the mental health parity law to include residential treatment service coverage, affording the same protections as other illnesses.
- Truth in Advertising – The legislation would require a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, studying whether regulation is needed for digitally altered images of humans in advertising, and if so, strategies to achieve such regulation.
Meetings were held with health staff from the offices of Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Sen. John Warner (D-VA). During these meetings, advocates from Delaware and Virginia told their powerful, personal stories about overcoming an eating disorder, or helping a loved one who battled an eating disorder. The staff in both offices were moved by the stories that were shared, and indicated an interest in the Anna Westin Act.
After morning meetings, the entire group reconvened for a lunch briefing. Reps. Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen stopped by, and the EDC expressed its thanks for their strong support in crafting the Anna Westin Act, and for being champions of the EDC in general. The briefing was focused on the Anna Westin Act, and the packed briefing room heard first from Anna’s mother, Kitty, who spoke of Anna and showed a short video about her daughter’s life and struggle. The group then heard from Chase Bannister, an EDC board member who is the founder of an eating disorders treatment facility in North Carolina. The group also heard from Olympic diver Brittany Viola Gonzalez, who battled an eating disorder and is now an advocate. Finally, the group heard from eating disorders treatment and training expert Dr. Edward Tyson.
Overall, it was a successful day full of much enthusiasm among the many advocates who traveled to Washington, D.C.