On September 19, 2019, Chase Bannister, the President of the Board of Directors of the Eating Disorders Coalition (“EDC”) appeared before the National Institute of Mental Health National Advisory Mental Health Council. This was an open policy session.
Some of Mr. Bannister’s more poignant remarks were as follows:
“This mortality rate underscores the severity of this illness, as it is common for individuals with eating disorders to have co-occurring medical and behavioral health conditions, increasing the complexities of proper intervention and treatment.”
“And these disorders seem to be on the rise, both here and around the world.”
“Proper intervention and treatment for any condition requires an investment in research.”
“Amongst all psychiatric conditions, … funding for eating disorder research remains among the most discrepant from the burden of illness they represent.”
“Meaningful progress in eating disorders treatment and intervention will only by realized to the extent we meaningfully invest in its science.”
“On behalf of our 56 member organizations and the millions of Americans we serve, I urge the Council to advise NIMH to increase research funding for eating disorders.”
That same day, the Eating Disorder Coalition issued its press release which quoted Mr. Bannister in material part, as follows: “For too long, research funding for eating disorders has been an order of magnitude away from what’s necessary. Meaningful progress in eating disorders treatment and intervention will only be realized to the extent we meaningfully invest in its science. We call upon NIH – and all who make or shape policy – to invest in eating disorders research. To do what’s necessary.”
Strong, noble words. Words worthy of concerted action. Words for which one should be held accountable.
I wholeheartedly applaud Mr. Bannister for these sentiments. I agree with the substance of these statements. Truly for progress to happen, for lives to be saved, we must emphasize investment in scientific research. This is the true life blood which will result in improved treatment protocols, in establishing industry-wide generally accepted standards of care and in saving many, many lives.
With such noble, strong words, let us explore how Mr. Bannister, the Eating Disorder Coalition and the other eating disorder organizations which help shape policy and which have a presence on Capitol Hill are backing up these words with equally bold, affirmative action.
It is unfortunate that no written expression is as effective as the sound of crickets in the background to fill those times of awkward silence. For that is the most accurate description of the inaction undertaken by the eating disorder industry on this critically important issue. No action at all.
The three eating disorder entities paying a lobbyist on Capitol Hill are the EDC, our friends at the Residential Eating Disorder Consortium (“Consortium”) and the HAES Movement f/k/a the National Eating Disorder Association (“NEDA/HAES”). Using EDC’s own words, these three organizations are entities which clearly, “… make or shape policy.” They collectively employ a small lobbying group named “Center Road Solutions.” And they pay that lobbyist very well.
In 2019, the EDC has paid Center Road Solutions $60,000.00.
In 2018, the EDC paid Center Road Solutions $120,000.00.
In 2017, the EDC paid its former lobbyist $120,000.00.
In 2019, the Consortium has paid Center Road Solutions $80,000.00.
In 2018, the Consortium paid Center Road Solutions $140,000.00.
In 2017, the Consortium paid its former lobbyist $70,000.00.
In 2019, NEDA/HAES has paid Center Road Solutions $40,000.00.
In 2018, NEDA/HAES paid Center Road Solutions $80,000.00.
In 2017, NEDA/HAES paid its former lobbyist $70,000.00
This combined total is $780,000.00.
So again, Mr. Bannister’s own words, “Meaningful progress in eating disorders treatment and intervention will only be realized to the extent we meaningfully invest in its science,” provide ample justification to speculate as to the amount that that $780,000.00 was utilized to pursue scientific research on new eating disorders bills in Congress. These three entities clearly help shape policy on eating disorders. Pursuant to a public statement made by Mr. Bannister, the president of one of those entities, they have the duty to seek funding for scientific research since this is the only manner in which meaningful progress in eating disorder treatment will be realized.
And yet, how much of that $780,000.00 was utilized to introduce new bills establishing Centers of Excellence in Eating Disorders? How much of that $780,000.00 was utilized to introduce a bill which addressed the need to establish and define the most effective, scientifically based treatment for eating disorders? How much of that $780,000.00 was utilized to establish a collaborative academic and corporate based center where generally accepted standards of care based on scientific and clinical evidence could be established?
It is unfortunate that no written expression is as effective as the sound of crickets in the background to fill those times of awkward silence. For that is the most accurate description of the answers to those questions. That is, none.
The only thing that saved Mr. Bannister from public humiliation was that no one on the National Institute of Mental Health National Advisory Mental Health Council had conducted sufficient research on this issue. If so, the following question surely would have been proffered:
WHY SHOULD THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH INCREASE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH FUNDING FOR EATING DISORDERS WHEN YOUR INDUSTRY’S OWN ORGANIZATIONS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DIRECTION OF ITS LOBBYISTS ARE NOT PURSUING THIS SAME FUNDING?
Sometimes, the sound of crickets can become a mighty cacophony of noise drowning out all other sound … even the sound of awkward silence.