Cuts to Eating Disorders Services Would Endanger New Yorkers, Raise Costs

Press conference March 12: Personal stories will highlight need for care

March 10, 2010

New Yorkers currently battling eating disorders as well as those at risk could soon be without the comprehensive, continuous and coordinated care that currently exists and often saves lives. Gone would be programs that facilitate prevention, early identification and intervention education for schools and parents, as well as transitional services such as life-coaching that prevent relapse and help patients return to their lives.

Governor David Paterson’s budget as it stands today calls for the elimination of all funding – $1.7 million – for the Comprehensive Care Centers for Eating Disorders, a statewide network of collaborating facilities that integrate care to improve outcomes while reducing complications, mortality and health care costs. The services provided by these centers – one in Albany, one in Manhattan, and one based at the University of Rochester School of Nursing – have been deemed “less essential to DOH’s core mission” by the Governor.

Health care providers, educators, patients and families will join Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz of Brooklyn at 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 12, at Fairport High School to call for restoration of the funding. Ortiz spearheaded state legislation that created the centers, which have become a benchmark for the rest of the country.

“Hearing the heartbreaking stories from constituents who have struggled with eating disorders about the devastating effects these diseases have had on individuals and their families, coupled with the difficulty they experienced in obtaining appropriate care, led me to sponsor legislation creating the Comprehensive Care Centers for Eating Disorders,” said Ortiz. “These programs have literally saved lives. New York cannot afford to take a step backward and lose these programs. It is critical that this funding be restored to the budget.”

The centers’ services, which include education, coordination of care, outreach and prevention, are currently funded only by the state. Since they are not considered treatment, they are not, and would not be, reimbursed by private insurance even under mental health parity laws.

“These are elements that can help prevent illness, get people who are sick help they need quickly, and help prevent relapse,” said Mary Tantillo Ph.D., R.N. C.S., director of the Western New York center and associate professor at the University of Rochester School of Nursing.This will be a tragedy for current patients as well as those who, as a result, may be diagnosed too late or not at all. This will leave many patients no option but to go out of state, which can be very costly and detrimental to treatment.”   

Since the creation of the centers in 2005, more than 10,000 New Yorkers have been evaluated; many people have been able to remain in state for all elements of their treatment; and prevention initiatives have been delivered to hundreds of students and school personnel throughout the state.

“The centers have proven to be essential partners who have provided us with the knowledge we need to keep kids healthy,” said Mary Connery, director of staff development for Fairport Central School District, which has worked with the Rochester-based center to educate teachers, parents and coaches. “At a time when there is a huge focus on obesity, there is danger in not knowing about and addressing weight as part of a larger, complex issue. We’ve learned that without an approach that focuses on wellness, kids who are vulnerable because of anxiety, low self-esteem and negative body-image will engage in more unhealthy weight control behaviors to avoid obesity at any cost.”

Tantillo, Ortiz, Connery and Assemblyman David Koon of Fairport will address the work the centers have done and the impact the cuts will have. In addition, patients who have overcome eating disorders and parents who have supported them will speak at the event.

The press conference begins at 12:30 p.m. at Fairport High School, 1 Dave Paddock Way. Media should check in at the main office and then make their way to Classroom A in the school’s library media center.

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Susan Fandel
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