Furthering the Mission: A Partnership with Project HEAL

“Nothing is impossible; the word itself says I’m possible.”– Audrey Hepburn

In 2008, a grassroots organization was formed by two young women who met while undergoing treatment for anorexia nervosa.  Liana and Kristina were just 15 years old when they helped each other reach recovery; next, they wanted to help others achieve it as well. Their story of friendship and support may not be unique, but what they went on to do certainly was; they used their experiences to start Project HEAL: Help to Eat, Accept and Live.

Project HEAL is a non-profit organization that raises funds to provide scholarships for those with eating disorders who are not able to afford treatment. It also helps promote healthy body image and self esteem in hopes of preventing future eating disorders.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, and may require intense treatment which can cost upwards of $30,000 per month. Insurance companies often refuse to cover these costs and most people cannot afford to pay out of pocket. Project HEAL’s scholarship program is their trademark service. They fund inpatient, residential and outpatient treatment for eating disorder sufferers who want to recover but do not have the financial means to do so. The money they raise helps cover necessary treatment costs of motivated applicants who want to get better and are ready to do the hard work required. To date, Project HEAL has raised enough funds to send 14 people to treatment!

One recipient shared how she felt when she was chosen to receive a scholarship:

Earlier this year, I received the most important phone call of my life. Project Heal informed me that I was a treatment grant recipient; in other words, my life was about to transform. Project Heal’s generous gift of sending me to treatment has impacted my life greatly. I’m finally creating a healthy relationship with food; I’m feeling ready to tackle my freshman year at college; I’m loving myself and believing that I am enough. I am living my life in full abundance of love, joy, compassion, struggles, and triumph. I am stronger and healthier than I have ever been before, and it all started with Project Heal. As the year comes to a close, my heart is filled with gratitude for Project Heal’s outstanding work, for my eating disorder treatment team, for the great friends I made in treatment, for my supportive family, and for my inner courage to keep fighting.”

​In 2013, Liana and Kristina reached out to the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders to expand their network of providers who can offer services. “Project HEAL and the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders have overlapping missions. We’re both committed to improving the lives of those who suffer from eating disorders and making evidence-based treatments accessible. We are delighted that Project HEAL wants to be part of the cure,” noted Dr. Evelyn Attia, the director of the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders.  As a result, in May 2013, Columbia Center for Eating Disorders introduced an annual “Project HEAL – Columbia Eating Disorders Scholarship,” specifically for Project HEAL applicants who are likely to benefit from the program offered at The New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Our Center, located at The New York State Psychiatric Institute, and part of Columbia University Medical Center, is a nationally recognized program dedicated to furthering the understanding of, and treatment for eating disorders. For over three decades, the Center has conducted research studies on anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and obesity in an effort to better understand these conditions and develop more effective treatments.  And during this time, interested and eligible patients have participated in our research and received treatment at no cost.

While in San Antonio, Texas for the National Eating Disorders Association conference in October, Liana and Kristina had the privilege of visiting with one of their treatment grantees. Over a long lunch, she shared her impressions of receiving treatment at the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders in New York City and talked about how it was truly life-changing for her.  She’s now home with her husband, actively seeking work in her chosen field and looking forward to starting a local Project HEAL chapter soon to help raise funds for HEAL’s treatment grant program.

Dr. Attia remarked, “It has been a pleasure to work together with Project HEAL towards our shared goal of helping individuals with eating disorders…The Project HEAL-Columbia ‘Scholars’ have been impressive group of young people who are ready for intensive treatment and eager to help us learn more about these challenging disorders.” .

Applications are submitted to Project HEAL via their website. Project HEAL reviews all applications and then begins the hard work of trying to match as many people as possible with appropriate resources, and defraying costs of barriers to treatment.

To learn more about research and treatment at Columbia Center for Eating Disorders, contact us by email (edru@nyspi.columbia.edu) or phone (646-774-8066).

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