Sen. Capito discusses bill to combat eating disorders - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Sen. Capito discusses bill to combat eating disorders

Anna Westin Anna Westin
(WVVA) - An estimated 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, but only one in ten will receive treatment.  Those numbers were announced this week by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
According to American Journal of Psychiatry, Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Sen. Capito says after seeing some young women in her own life suffer from an eating disorder, she wanted to see something done.  "I have a daughter and I've seen this happen with her generation where many girls and young women around the country, and men, but mostly women, suffering from anorexia and eating disorders.  And eating disorders have not been treated fairly in our health care system."
She and three other female senators introduced the bipartisan Anna Westin Act Monday night.
The bill is named after a Minnesota woman who struggled with anorexia for five years.  Anna Westin began to see significant health problems including liver malfunction.  Before her family could get her specialized help, they had to wait for their insurance company to certify Anna's treatment.  She took her own life in 2000.
"What this bill does is recognize that eating disorders need mental health treatment that you should be able to access through your insurance," the senator told WVVA.
It would also train health professionals and school personnel on how to identify and treat the disease, something Bluefield Therapist Dr. Teresa Paine applauds.
"Just the body image that so many women have, and this extends all the way down to little girls," she explains.  "Many little girls, who aren't fat at all, think they're fat."
Dr. Paine says that anorexia and bulimia are not the only disorders plaguing the Two Virginias.  "We have a huge rate of obesity in this area and that's an eating disorder.  And I'd say that's probably the biggest eating disorder we've got." 
Funding for the Anna Westin Act already exists from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and National Institute of Mental Health, so no additional government money will be needed.
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