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April 21, 2016

A Day on the Hill

Capitol Hill. The Senate. The House. All of these institutions seem imposing.

How can one person have any impact on the complex processes of our government? The amazing thing is, it is possible. As Americans, each and every one of us can impact our legislative process by using our voices. Speaking our truths, telling our stories, and sharing our own experiences can make a difference that can impact millions.

I did just this on Monday this week at EDC Lobby Day, talking to our policymakers about the Anna Westin Act. I went to Lobby Day because I know that passing a bill called the Anna Westin Act (AWA) will save lives. How does a bill about eating disorders save lives? The AWA opens up grant funding for training for health and school professionals and the public. With this training, more people will recognize the early signs of eating disorders, which can save lives. The public will understand more about eating disorders, which can reduce stigma and encourage those struggling to get help sooner.

We know eating disorders are biological, brain-based illnesses with high mortality rates. We need to educate the public to know just this so that fewer people suffer the severe consequences of these illnesses. It is past time that eating disorders are correctly recognized as the illnesses they are, not wrongly as some sort of behavior problem or moral failing.

The AWA also clarifies parity in mental health access that ensures more people will be able to get the care they need. Anna Westin lost her life to an eating disorder because she couldn’t get the care she needed. This bill will help prevent others from this kind of devastation from an eating disorder by underscoring that parity includes residential treatment that some people need.

I knew Anna. She shouldn’t have died from her illness. We can make it better. We have to make it better so that no other parents experience the loss and devastation that her parents, Mark and Kitty, did when an eating disorder took their daughter.

I told Anna’s story in meetings with legislative staff on Monday. They listened. They asked questions. They saw the need. Two Representatives added themselves as co-sponsors of the AWA that day after our meetings. Using our voices made a difference and compelled them to act.

The best thing about the whole experience is that you can have it, too. And you don’t even have to get on a plane to do it. You can make a difference from your chair, right now! Click here to contact your Representative and Senator and urge them to support the Anna Westin Act.

Now that you are done with that (great job, thank you!), if you can go to the Hill, do it. It’s an amazing and empowering experience to talk about things that are important to you with people who can impact so many. It is a feeling I can only describe as feeling so fully American. Not all people in all countries can go talk to the people that make decisions in their government. We can and should. It is truly a way to use your voice. You can save a life. Or millions. Have no doubt, our voices make a difference.

Let’s go save some lives and pass the Anna Westin Act. Do it for Anna. Do it for all those who loved Anna. Do it for everyone who’s been touched by an eating disorder. Share information about the AWA with people in your life.

Together, we can make a difference.

Get help. Find hope.