BEACONS OF HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

A number of my past articles have largely leaned toward illustrating some of the more unsavory or questionable issues in the eating disorder community. And yet, there are certainly positive things occurring. People who inspire us through their humility, vision and selfless work. So, let’s highlight some of those good things, people, organizations and events.

Equip

Let’s start with Equip. Equip was started by Kristina Saffran, the co-founder of Project HEAL and Erin Parks, PhD. Recognizing a need for greater access to care and treatment of eating disorders, Saffran and Parks started Equip, an online platform in which a treatment team works with people suffering from eating disorders and their families. All sessions are done online. Equip assigns a five-person treatment team, a physician, therapist, peer mentor, family mentor and dietitian to the family.

Equip uses family-based therapy (FBT) as its methodology. In 2014, the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists released a comprehensive report stating in part that FBT showed the most promise and highest efficacy rate for adolescents suffering from anorexia nervosa.

By the end of 2022, Equip anticipates being able to operate in all 46 states and the 4 commonwealths in the US and currently is accepted by at least 10 insurance companies.

Investors certainly believe in Equip. Equip has been able to raise $75 million in capital.

Equip issued initial findings regarding its programming. According to at least one article, Equip reported that 71% of its patients reported a reduction in eating disorder symptoms and 96% of parents reported feeling more confident about caring for a child with an eating disorder.

Can Equip provide a more effective long-term solution in the care and treatment of eating disorders? It is far too early to tell. Is this type of treatment, virtual-online, as effective as face-to-face therapy? [I believe that certain important aspects of therapy can only be provided face to face.] Again, time will tell.

What we do know is that Equip is opening new doors and exploring alternative access to care. It is backed with significant funding. Its leaders are respected and driven. We all hope that Equip has a substantive and positive impact on the industry and community and we will be hoping for great, future success.

EDCoalition and the REDC

Kudos must go out to the EDCoalition, the REDC Consortium, its president Jillian Lampert, Center Road Solutions and Katrina Velazquez.  On June 23, 2022, the House of Representatives passed The Anna Westin Legacy Act as part of H.R. 7666, the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022.

This bill reauthorizes and expands the National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, which provides critical training, screening information, and best practices to primary care providers. The bill authorizes $5 million for each fiscal year from 2023 to 2027 to fund NCEED. The previously adopted act authorized $3.75 million.

These funds are dedicated to adapting screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment models for pediatric patients, expanding in-person and online training modules on eating disorders for physicians, consult with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran Affairs on treatment of eating disorders for veterans and military service members and integrate screening, intervention and referral to treatment models into electronic health record systems.

Nicely done.  Progress for one is progress for all.

NEDA

Liz Thompson, the CEO of NEDA and Geoffrey Craddock, the Chairman of the Board of NEDA, are doing an admirable job and have begun to put back together NEDA. When one peruses NEDA’s social media pages, we find a wide diversity of topics. Information about the different types of eating disorders, body diversity, information about important bills being considered in Congress, the importance of research and stigma.

My past interaction with NEDA may lead one to question why I would be including them in “an uncharacteristic, positive article.” Ultimately, when good work is being accomplished, when an organization can in some ways, seemingly reinvent itself, when an organization becomes focused and directed, we should certainly embrace and encourage good works. Ms. Thompson has a proven, past record of success in prior organizations.

A strong focused NEDA can help so many families. And that ultimately should be everyone’s goal … to help families.

Linda and Jack Mazur

The work being done by Linda and Jack Mazur should inspire us all. In 2016 their beloved daughter Emilee was taken after fighting eating disorders for ten years. The revolving door of treatment imposed by insurance companies and the lack of knowledge about eating disorder of medical providers in the late aughts contributed to Emilee’s condition.

Now, Linda and Jack Mazur are fighting back … with humility, knowledge and grace.  Their new podcast series, “Once Shattered, Picking Up the Pieces” is a compelling listen. Their book, “Emilee – The Story of a Girl and Her Family Hijacked by Anorexia” is a must read. In the last month, Jack and Linda also received approval for their 501(c)(3) foundation, “The Emilee Connection.”

Grief certainly impacts each person in different and unique ways. In the case of Linda and Jack, the daily heartache they feel has manifested itself in a manner which provides our shared humanity the opportunity to become bigger, better, more transparent and more soulful.

Families and Patients

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the stories of recovery, of resiliency, of overcoming life-threatening obstacles which are placed before our daughters and sons before they have the chance to find their place in life can’t help but fill us with hope for a greater tomorrow.

When we see the evolution of the heart and embracing of life shown by the many who first suffered from, and then who have overcome this insidious illness, how can that not let your spirit soar? When I see the young people who I have helped get into treatment start to fully live their lives … when I see marriages, and graduations, and laughter and love, when I am called a “second dad,” how can that not be a helping hand extended to lift me up and keep me from drowning in a pool of despair?

The times a parent has told me, “Thank you, you helped save my child’s life,” they can’t possibly know that to me it is, “No … it is you and your beautiful child who are saving mine. For it is you who are keeping my daughter alive in your head and your heart. And the only thing I ask of you for this precious gift is … to pass it on to others. Through your own work, your own passion, your own love.”

That love, that strength, that resiliency, that burning light of hope, is the greatest gift our community has.  The families are the sole reason for this community’s existence.

Our families deserve the absolute best from our community. Because our families are the greatest gift to our community.

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