Reaching Across the Aisle in Albany

We planned our annual trip to Albany on behalf of the Comprehensive Care Centers for Eating Disorders (CCCED) as we do most years…. preparing summaries and statistics, inviting constituents, making appointments with as many legislative influencers as possible.

In 2004, New York State passed a law to create and fund this statewide network to enhance comprehensive, coordinated and continuous specialized treatment for eating disorders, and to facilitate early intervention for those in need to avoid complications and repeated hospitalizations.

The combined efforts of the three regional centers (Western NY, Northeast NY, and Metro NY) that comprise the CCCED cover all of New York State and are considered models of care (To learn more about the NYC centers, see this related post.).

Meeting with Assemblyman Felix Ortiz.

Though we have been making this trip for many years, this year was different. After the November 2018 elections, there have been significant changes in the State Senate and Assembly, including a change in legislative leadership, with the Democrats now at the helm. Leadership in the State Senate and Assembly, previously dominated by Republicans, has been assumed by Democrats from the downstate region. Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Westchester, now heads the upper chamber, becoming New York’s first-ever female legislative leader, and she is working closely with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to steer the legislative agenda.

For us, this means that heads of committees and other decision-makers familiar with and supportive of our programs in the past are no longer in key positions. We could not assume that our newly elected representatives would be equally familiar with the important work funded by their predecessors.

Meeting with Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer.

This year, we arrived prepared to educate anew on the impact of eating disorders and the challenges of accessing specialized care. All legislators like to hear from constituents. Therefore, we asked a diverse group from our area who have been helped by our programs to join us and share their stories. This helped dispel myths and misconceptions about these illnesses. One pervasive myth about eating disorders is that they only affect white women. However, these are indeed “equal opportunity” disorders, and this year our team of activists included a male in recovery (who reminded people that men too suffer from these illnesses) a female of color, also in recovery (who proudly shared that she has not binged in over one year), and a Latino family (participating in family-based therapy with their teenage daughter) who have all been helped by services that resulted from funding for CCCED. Our aim was to drive home the simple fact that people of all backgrounds can develop eating disorders.

We divided into groups and attended back to back meetings with key legislators who were very receptive to our message. We can only now hope that NY State’s deficit will not be the barrier to level funding. Eating Disorders Awareness Week starts Feb 25th. Any and all efforts to educate and advocate for these important services are welcome.

Do you live in New York and wish to make your voice heard?

To find your local representative, search the NY State Senate and Assembly listings. When you call, remind them that:

  • Eating disorders are not choices, but serious biologically influenced illnesses.
  • Eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses.
  • Eating disorders carry an increased risk for both suicide and medical complications.
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