U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Helps Introduce Legislation to Improve Prevention and Treatment of Eating Disorders

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) this week 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 would use existing funds to create grant programs to train school personnel, health care providers, 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 have been identified. The bill also clarifies the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to require that health insurance companies cover residential treatment for eating disorders.

"I am proud to work with Senators Klobuchar, Capito and Ayotte on bipartisan legislation to provide greater public awareness about eating disorders and to help health care professionals and school personnel better recognize behaviors that may lead to or signal the presence of an eating disorder," said Senator Baldwin. "I am strongly committed to increasing research and education, as well as expanding access to care, for mental illnesses like eating disorders.  Women and men with eating disorders deserve the same access to quality health care that is available to individuals who are suffering from medical conditions and other mental health illnesses. Our bill would help improve prevention, treatment, and diagnosis to better support the 192,000 Wisconsinites who are struggling with an eating disorder."

The legislation is named after Anna Westin of Chaska, Minnesota, who was diagnosed with anorexia when she was 16 years old. After completing her sophomore year in college, Anna's health deteriorated 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. The Anna Westin Act will help prevent similar tragedies from happening to other men and women and their families.