The Anna Westin Act vs. the Recovery Model, and why eating disorder clinicians need to take off their blinders and catch up to strengths-based, peer-support approaches used with all other severe mental illnesses

Dear Readers,

I am writing to let you know that, to my deep regret, I must indefinitely suspend the investigative reporting and writing on eating disorder treatment and other, mental health issues I’ve been publishing on A Disordered World. Since winter, I’ve poured hundreds of hours of unpaid work into the research and writing of the several articles I’ve written. I am enormously gratified that literally thousands of families throughout the world have found my articles helpful as they try to separate myth from fact in determining how to best-treat someone with a severe eating disorder. I have many additional, critical issues related to this subject which I’d intended to write about in the coming months. However the work I’ve been doing has come at the expense of my mental, physical and financial well-being. So while it causes me great distress, I’ve decided to take some indefinite “time off” from writing, to restore my health and financial sustainability. A Disordered World’s current content will remain online for anybody to access.

Money was the last thing on my mind when I started working on the stories I began posting in May. I researched and wrote those stories as a public service, to shed light on a form of treatment that has no scientific evidence to support it, and which is endangering the lives of potentially millions of individuals suffering from severe and persistent, eating disorders. Nonetheless, I am a single woman trying to live off of SSDI in one of the most expensive metro regions in this nation. I can not afford to continue to work for free, especially when it is coming at the expense of my health and recovery, and when my articles appear to hold little chance at gaining a wide audience or spurring reform within the status quo — the unregulated and dangerous for-profit, eating disorder residential centers which continue to hold sway for this mental illness in the United States.

To the hundreds of individuals who have publicly and privately  commented on my stories or thanked me, I want to say: I am grateful to every single one of you. It brings me inexpressible happiness if my stories have validated anyone else’s experience, or helped lead individuals to appropriate forms of treatment which prevented them from getting sucked into the revolving door of institutionalized, eating disorder care. Your overwhelming response to, and reading of, my articles has made me feel my life is worth living again – has given me hope that maybe I still have something to offer this world.

Before I suspend my writing, however, I must alert you to some urgent issues.

First, and foremost, if you agree the for-profit, private, residential treatment industry needs reform and accountability, I implore you to write to your legislative representatives regarding the Anna Westin Act by October 1. That is the deadline to submit comments on this bill, known as H.R. 2515 in the House of Representatives, and S.B. 1865 in the Senate. (In particular, if you live in the states of Florida, New York, California, Iowa, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, West Virginia, or Wisconsin, contact the co-sponsors of this bill listed at the end of this column.)

If you live near Washington, D.C., or have the means to travel there, you can also attend the “March Against Eating Disorders” event on Oct. 27, or the Eating Disorders Coalition’s Lobby Day on Oct. 28, to provide a dissenting voice to the thousands who will be advocating for approval of “Anna’s Law” in its present form.

I cannot underestimate the import of the Anna Westin Act. The eating disorder treatment industry – and its advocacy arms – are marketing the bill as being about improving eating disorder training for health care and education professionals, and rectifying media and entertainment content which influences eating disorders.

Let me tell you what H.R. 2515 is really about (to read the full text of the proposed bill, click here ). It is about is a tiny clause you don’t find until you scroll to the very bottom of the proposed legislation, under sections relating to the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA):

RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT.—For purposes of this section, mental health and substance use disorder benefits include residential treatment.’’

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