CHARLESTON, WV. (November 30, 2017) — Jessica Luzier, Ph.D., ABPP, an associate professor of behavioral medicine and psychiatry at West Virginia University’s Charleston Division and clinical director of the West Virginia University Disordered Eating Center of Charleston, was a speaker earlier this month at a congressional briefing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC sponsored by the Eating Disorder Coalition (EDC) and the American Dental Association (ADA). Hosted by Senator Shelley Moore Capito [R-WV] in conjunction with her co-hosts Tammy Baldwin [D-WI] and Amy Klobuchar [D-MN], the briefing was titled, “Waiting on CURES: The Role of Health Professionals in Early Detection of Eating Disorders.
Moderated by EDC board president and professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Dr. Bryn Austin, the panel of speakers also included Dr. Alexis Duncan, associate professor of public health at Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Richard Gesker, DMD chief dental officer at Mary’s Center, and Gail Schoenbach, EDC board member and executive director of the FREED/S.T.A.T Foundation and a recovered eating disorders patient.
Organizers of the briefing hoped that the information shared by the expert panel would shed light on the importance of early identification of eating disorders by health professionals in the medical/surgical industry and the need for implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Dr. Luzier highlighted programming and training at the WVU Disordered Eating Center of Charleston (WVU DECC), including the outreach provided by the West Virginia Eating Disorder Network Conference every Spring. WVU DECC, along with the CAMC Foundation and the CAMC Institute, host providers from around the state to learn about new strategies for treating eating disorders, including innovative new interventions and methods for addressing co-occurring substance use disorders.
Senator Capito has worked closely with local treatment providers to help. “The dangers of eating disorders are serious. While thousands of West Virginians are currently affected by this disease, few are receiving all the treatment they need. I have worked hard in Congress to expand access to treatment and enhance awareness and prevention efforts – but the work does not stop there. We are lucky to have the WVU DECC right here in Charleston collaborating with a wide range of medical professionals to treat those affected by eating disorders, and develop innovative solutions to combat this problem,” said Senator Capito.
Dr. Luzier is confident that these briefings and conferences will help to improve access to specialized, effective care for people with eating disorders in West Virginia by raising awareness at the national level and by offering local training opportunities for healthcare professionals. She notes, “We include providers of all types, from nursing to psychologists to dietitians. Just in the past few years, more treatment teams have developed across the state. With the passage of the AWA, and with Senator Capito’s support, we are more motivated than ever to continue this great work”.
Over 30 million Americans will experience a clinically significant eating disorder during their lifetime including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder; based on these prevalence estimates, over 61,000 West Virginians currently experience an eating disorder. Eating disorders are serious and complex mental health conditions that affect people of all genders, ages, body sizes, races, sexual orientations and socioeconomic statuses, and have a notably higher prevalence rate in women. This disorder has the highest mortality rate for any mental illness, higher than prostate cancer, melanoma cancer, and equal to acute leukemia; studies show that 50% of people with an eating disorder also experience a co-occurring substance use disorder.
The Eating Disorders Coalition is a Washington, D.C.-based, federal advocacy organization comprised of treatment providers, advocacy organizations and entities, parents of children with eating disorders, and people experiencing eating disorders nationwide. For more information contact Katrina Velasquez at the Eating Disorders Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional resources can also be found at www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org.
Jeff Driggs, WVU Charleston