In case you haven't already heard, the Senate version of the FREED Bill (the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders) was introduced the morning of our 2010 Lobby Day, last Tuesday, April 27th. The House version of the Bill was introduced last year, and we have garnered 28 cosponsors to the Bill (though that number may be more now; it is growing every day!). We have bi-partisan co-sponsorship in the House, which is a very good thing. Both versions of the Bill are available online to read, if you feel so inclined, at www.opencongress.com. Check it out, inspired citizen!
The Senate leadership that we have is solely Democratic... for now. :) I am confident that after our day of lobbying, we will soon see some more conservative members of the Senate on board. At the helm of the legislation is Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA, and Committee of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Senator Al Franken (D-MN). As for the last individual... I reserve no comment. I'm just happy to have support for our Bill. Do I think he may be a polarizing figure for Republicans and this issue? Maybe. Do I hope politicians can get over it and see the NECESSITY of this Bill and its importance? Yes.
A little under one hundred constituents appeared on Capitol Hill to lobby for FREED; citizens from across the country. Our main goal for this most recent lobby was to thank our House members whose support we have, and encourage our state's representatives and senators to cosponsor if they had not already done so. Armed with facts, figures and details of the Bill, along with personal stories of poor treatment, lack of resources, education, and the priority placed on eating disorders, I believe we succeeded in gaining momentum for this unique piece of legislation. I went to meetings with the Michigan delegation, and visited the offices of Rep. Mark Schauer, Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, and Rep. John Dingell. We thanked Schauer for his support of the House Bill (he's already signed on!), and educated the offices of our other congressmen and women on the Bill. I felt it was important not to simply tell our stories as constituents who've struggled with affording treatment, access to care, etc. It was my effort to try to illuminate, for the congressmen and staffers, that this Bill is about more than eating disorders.
The legislation is not just demanding money to be poured into a problem that is self-perpetuating; the costs attributed to the Bill are actually preventative, as they address RESEARCH, which leads to better EDUCATION (for med students especially, and all levels of students), which leads to the early detection and therefore lowering of treatment costs across the board. With better education, we can create more awareness of the disease, so that individuals do not get stuck in the 'revolving-door' of treatment and get better, the FIRST time, early on. This way money is SAVED; by families, doctors, and by insurers. I believe, along with the Eating Disorders Coalition that this disease can indeed be eradicated.
I saw that our congressmen also understood that this Bill is RELEVENT, as it works hand in hand with recent efforts to improve the health and fitness of our nation's children to prevent obesity and its related health conditions. Efforts in the prevention of obesity and eating disorders combine when governments and people work together to educate on proper and adequate nutrition, the importance of moderation and balance in exercise, and the rejection of abnormal dieting behaviors and the importance of "thinness." Everyone cares about health, health care reform, etc., right now, and these are all issues addressed in the FREED Act. It would certainly look 'good' for our Congressmen to support this Bill. I think they're starting to get it. :)
A Congressional Briefing in the Gold Room in one of the House Office Buildings served to complete the day of lobbying. The panel of presenters included several professionals from the field of eating disorders, the EDC's founder and mother of Anna, who passed away from Bulimia at the age of 19, Kitty Westin, and Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). Kennedy has been a tireless advocate and champion for mental and behavioral health issues on the Hill, having consistently been outspoken about his own struggles with substance abuse and bipolar disorder. One cannot help but admire his work ethic and candidness. The Eating Disorders Coalition will be sad to see him go in November.
I do have more updates, especially related to an amazing recent visit to Timberline Knolls (a residential treatment facility outside of Chicago, Illinois)... however it is wedding week here in the Haglund household, so duties call. More to come.
I'm so excited to finally be getting a sister!