WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) this week joined Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to introduce the bipartisan 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 are identified. The bill also clarifies that the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires health insurance companies to cover residential treatment for eating disorders.
“The dangers of eating disorders are grave. While millions of Americans are affected, few receive the treatment they need,” said Senator Capito. “Individuals suffering from eating disorders should have access to the same mental health services as those facing other types of illnesses. The Anna Westin Act would expand access to treatment while enhancing awareness and prevention efforts.”
This bill is named in honor of Anna Westin of Chaska, Minnesota, who 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.