Our annual trip to Albany to meet with legislators took place this year on February 11th, 2015. This yearly pilgrimage is prompted by the State’s budget cycle, and once again, our team went into action mode to advocate for the continued funding of the Comprehensive Care Centers for Eating Disorders (CCCEDs).
In 2004, New York State passed a law to create and fund this statewide network in order to enhance comprehensive, coordinated and continuous specialized treatment for eating disorders, as well as to facilitate early intervention for those in need to avoid complications and repeated hospitalizations.
The three regional centers (Western NY, Northeast NY, and Metro NY) cover all of New York State and are considered models of care. Here in New York City, the Metro NY CCCED is comprised of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and Cohen Children’s Hospital.
The funding we have received over the years covers services that are not reimbursed by insurance. Ten years ago, the three regional centers shared over one million dollars. This money supported staffing, programming to provide outreach and education, and other initiatives to provide ease of access, coordinated care, early identification and intervention and transitional services. In subsequent budget cycles, funding decreased significantly, and for the last two years each Center has had to work with a small fraction of the original amount, resulting in a significant decrease in services. Like the Metro region, Northeast NY and Western NY are also comprised of multiple providers, so money that goes to each then gets subdivided further.
Our day involved back-to-back meetings with representatives from the Senate and Assembly who chair relevant committees (health and mental health, for example). New this year was a meeting with the staff member working with Senator Seward who chairs the Insurance Committee. It was our mission to help them see that money spent on eating disorders treatment in New York State saves money and saves lives.
While the structure of each Albany visit is the similar, the fiscal and political climates that impact funding differ, so we never quite know what to expect. We know we are “competing” with other worthy causes for the State’s limited dollars, and our job is to continue to remind our representatives how worthy this cause is.
Fortunately, everyone we met was supportive, encouraging, and in favor of increasing funding. Assemblyman Ortiz already had drafted a letter to the Governor to be signed by colleagues requesting a significant increase in funding to allow the CCCEDs to more fully fulfill their mission.
As usual, we were accompanied by patient and family volunteer advocates who courageously shared the details of their journey with these illnesses. Their stories of illness and recovery and descriptions of how our services have helped them remind politicians of their constituents who are assisted by our programs.
We are hopeful that the funding for the CCCED will not just be maintained in this year’s upcoming budget, but increased in response to the submitted proposals that described services benefiting New Yorkers across the state and keeping them from leaving the local area to receive treatment.
The trip was a great reminder that anyone can join the efforts to advocate for eating disorders by contacting their local state representatives. Together, our efforts are continuing to make a difference.