South Florida Reps. Ted Deutch and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen signed onto a bipartisan letter from Congressional members urging the Department of Health and Human Services to implement tools to help treat eating disorders in the U.S.
The representatives took aim at HHS after what they say is a failure to promote training of health care workers to help identify symptoms of eating disorders in patients. They say resources were allocated for such training in the “21st Century Cures Act,” but HHS has stalled in its implementation.
The act was passed in 2016 to fund efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and aid research, among other goals. The law also aimed to increase the availability of certain treatment programs, including those to help alleviate eating disorders.
However, in a letter addressed to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, representatives say the Department dropped the ball.
“We have concerns regarding progress toward early identification and intervention training programs for health professionals,” the statement reads. It goes on to urge HHS officials to allocate “resources to help health professionals identify the early warning signs of eating disorders, fight the stigma associated with mental health disorders, intervene quickly, and refer patients to specialized mental health professionals to help more Americans find the path to recovery.”
Eating disorders are significantly more common among women and typically result in high rates of impairment among those suffering. Less than 50 percent of those suffering from anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder ever seek treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
That highlights the concern of Congress members that health professionals need better training to identify and treat these disorders, even when patients do not actively seek out treatment.
“Passage of the 21st Century Cures Act was a major bipartisan accomplishment, and now we are asking the Department to utilize all necessary resources to implement these health programs,” Deutch added in a statement. “We need to train our health professionals to learn how to detect, prevent, and treat eating disorders among their patients. With 30 million Americans affected by these illnesses over their lifetime, this demands the full attention and appropriate resources of our federal health agency.”
“It is unfortunate that programs to train health professionals to identify and treat these disorders have not been forthcoming from the Department of Health and Human Services,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “Along with my friend and colleague, Ted, I urge Secretary Azar to implement programs that will help those with eating disorders get the help they need.”