Law will create comprehensive care centers for those struggling with eating disorders

Governor George E. Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno today announced that the Governor has signed legislation which will establish comprehensive care centers which will provide individualized, comprehensive and integrated plans of care for those suffering from Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and binge eating disorders.

The Governor and Senator were joined by Jenny Lauren, author and anorexia survivor and Lynn Grefe, the CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association. "Eating disorders are very serious and certainly can be life threatening in most cases," Governor Pataki said. "This new law will take important steps to help those who are suffering from this disease and ensure that New Yorkers get the quality health care they deserve and further ensure that our health care system is the best in the nation." Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said, "Eating disorders are serious health conditions that can be both physically and emotionally destructive and in most cases these diseases are potentially life threatening. This new law is critical for people with eating disorders because these conditions involve a wide range of needs and professional disciplines and a comprehensive system of care is our answer."

Jenny Lauren, anorexia survivor and author said, "Eating disorders have become an epidemic and they are creating a war within our culture and destroying the minds, bodies and hearts of young American people filled with promise and talent. I cannot stress how much room there is for the development of more care centers throughout all the states and for much more effective treatment models so those suffering and their families can find some solace, relief and hope."

Lynn Grefe, CEO, National Eating Disorders Association, said "This has been a 'hidden epidemic' in our state - and in the nation - and this law is a critical step for getting people to the care they so desperately need. Men and women, of all ages, have been suffering without having the resources or access to treatment for this lethal, yet treatable disease. This is a great day and we know that this important legislation will help so many."

State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H. said, "By signing this bill into law, Governor Pataki is once again affirming his commitment to providing all New Yorkers with access to the highest quality and most effective health care."

Eating disorders are a growing problem in the United States, affecting between 5 and 10 million individuals each year. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in every 200 women suffers from anorexia and the mortality rate among people with the disease is estimated to be about 12 times higher than the average death rate due to all other causes of death for females aged 15 to 24 in the general population.

The cost of treating an individual with an eating disorder can be extraordinary. Currently, there is no generally accessible system in New York for the comprehensive and integrated treatment of eating disorder patients, nor is there a general mechanism for community education, prevention and coordinated research activities.

The new law authorizes the State Commissioner of Health to identify "Comprehensive Care Centers (of excellence) for Eating Disorders," to treat those suffering from eating disorders. The legislation would require that the centers provide individual health and psychosocial services, inpatient medical and surgical treatment, rehabilitation and psychiatric care, residential treatment, case management, and community education including information and referral services and prevention and research activities.

Additionally, the law requires insurers to cover treatments provided by state-identified eating disorder centers and to make flexible reimbursement arrangements between the insurer and the comprehensive care centers.

The law also establishes a State grant program to facilitate the development and operation of comprehensive care centers which the State Commissioner of Health would issue to the centers. A special State account will be established for the funds, which any source may contribute to, and New York State's HCRA public health and mental health allocations of $1 million would be deposited into the Eating Disorder grant program account for community education, prevention and research.

According to the National Mental Illness Screening Project (NMISP), while Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year, 80% of American women are still dissatisfied with their appearance and in fact, one in eight high school females have used vomiting as a "diet aid."

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