Another year, another budget cycle; our annual foray to Albany is, however, anything but routine. While the structure of the day looks familiar, there is always a new twist-changes in legislative leadership, overlapping appointments, and most pronounced this year- a possible change in the department that will oversee our program.
This year, on February 4th, we scheduled 18 meetings. Yes – we divided up into teams, using a color-coded cheat sheet to direct us from one meeting to the next! We had the opportunity to meet with heads of key committees such as health, mental health, finance, along with those who represent the districts in which our services are located.
Representation for Metro, Western and Eastern NY Comprehensive Care Centers for Eating Disorders, a State designated Center of Excellence, included: medical leadership from all 3 Centers, patient advocates, peer mentors, parent mentors, case managers, dietetic interns, psychologists, psychiatrists, and government relations representatives.
We provided updates on accomplishments credited to last year’s funding, which included, but were not limited to:
- a conference hosted in Syracuse to educate upstate health practitioners along with academic and athletic college and high school personnel
- production of an educational video to teach non-specialist health professionals about eating disorders (in process)
- a presentation for school social workers sponsored by the United Federation of Teachers in NYC
We reminded and thanked legislators for funding that allows us to continue to function as a Center of Excellence, maintaining ongoing services such as care management, partial hospital and day programs, nutrition services, and overall care coordination as a part of a comprehensive array of services.
As always, the most moving testimony offered was from the individuals who are now in recovery. They generously shared their stories of finding help and hope in our treatment services. Several legislators were moved to tears as they listened and shared their own experiences with loved ones who have experienced eating disorders. Several special advocates have been joining us on these trips for years. For example, a couple who lost their daughter to anorexia nervosa many years before our services were available, provide a powerful argument for the need for coordinated care. They shared their recently published book about their daughter’s struggle, to highlight the seriousness of eating disorders and the potential dire consequences if they are left untreated, and to explain how the overlap of medical and mental health issues can complicate diagnosis and treatment.
While we await the final decision about restoring the funds we need to continue our work, we remind our readers that you too can lend your support to this cause. Remind legislators that:
- Eating disorders are serious biologically influenced illnesses, not choices
- 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 medical complications (including on bone health, heart health, and other systems) as well as suicide