On October 27th Mothers Against Eating Disorders (MAED), the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, and the Eating Disorders Coalition joined forces with 12 co-sponsors and 43 partners to bring approximately three hundred people to the west lawn of our nations Capitol. The goal was simple; to bring attention to eating disorders. The second annual MOM’s (Mother’s and Others) March on Washington brought people from across the United States and as far away as Australia to send a clear message to Congress and the public that eating disorders are serious illnesses that deserve attention. The passionate group that gathered together to raise their voices, listened to empowering speeches, told their personal stories and supported each other. They came to Washington DC determined to tell their stories and expecting that their voices will be heard and I don't think anyone left disappointed. The overall message of the rally was; we need to pass the Anna Westin Act NOW because to many are suffering, to many are dying, and we can make change happen. Organizer Cherie Bilby Monarch said; “The only way things will change is for voices to unite and organizations to collaborate.” I can safely say that our day on the west lawn united voices and organizations in an amazing and powerful way.
Following the MOM’s March, over 200 citizen activists stayed in, or traveled to, Washington D.C. to attend the Fall Eating Disorders Coalition Lobby Day on October 28th. We had advocates from 31 States participate. We were lobbying for speedy passage of the Anna Westin Act (H.R2515 & S.1865). The AWA of 2015 is the first eating disorders legislation to receive bipartisan support at introduction in over a decade. The enactment of the Anna Westin Act will improve care for eating disorders by providing training for physicians, health professionals, school personnel, and the public as well as treatment coverage by clarifying the Mental Health Parity Bill that was passed in 2008. The House version of the bill also addresses “truth in advertising” by asking the FTC to conduct a study on the impact of using digitally altered photographs in advertisements. The results of lobby day are truly impressive. Voices were heard loud and clear and 10 new Members have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill in the first week. We are getting much needed Congressional hearings and just yesterday Congressman Lance (R-NJ) and Congresswoman Matsui (D-CA) championed a bipartisan amendment to include the provisions of the AWA in Congressman Tim Murphy’s (R-PA) comprehensive mental health reform bill, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646). This is truly a victory for all of us!
I think I speak for all who attended the MOM’s March and Lobby Day when I say; There is an energy around the Anna Westin Act that feels electric! I have hope, I believe this will happen, and I am grateful to everyone who attended the events both in person and virtually. Our champions in the House and the Senate are working hard and have prioritized getting this done. I am proud to be one of the “warriors” with boots on the ground working toward a day when there are trained professionals, parity is enforced and we know the impact that photo shopping has on our young people. For updates, action alerts and information go to www.eatingdisoderscoalition.org. This is a fast moving target, there is much left to do, and we continue to need your voice to make it happen.