Haines With Ayotte in Washington
Thank you Senators!
The first thing I did when I arrived home from work Thursday evening, was check my phone messages. My first message was from Senator Kelly Ayotte; she was inviting me and other granite staters to join in a phone conversation with her about the issues that are currently affecting our state. This was not the first time I’d heard her voice on my machine…The senator and her staff offer these forums on a regular basis. Since she has taken office, she has made it her practice to connect with the people she represents. This is one of the many things I appreciate about her. Her effort to reach out to me as a constituent has inspired me to reach out and participate in the politics that affect me. This is largely why I’m here today.
Last Thursday, I spent part of my day with an 11th grade class, doing my best to help them to understand what eating disorders are and how best to help someone they care about. I am passionate about eating disorder prevention. Like so many here today, and around the country, it’s an issue that has had a profound effect on my life.
A few years ago I learned of the death of a former student; a young woman I was quite fond of. Millie struggled with the brain disease Anorexia Nervosa. When I first met her she was well, and she was excited about recovery. She had just returned from an extended stay in a treatment program. She was fortunate to have received treatment-her family’s ability to pay for her care privately kept her in the hospital for many months. During the two years that followed, I saw her health deteriorate. Her ability to participate in her own life dwindled. She became harder and harder to connect with. Her family could no longer get her into the care she needed. At just a few years out of high school, Millie’s heart failed as a direct result of her Anorexia. She was just barely entering her 20’s. Since that time, I have made the prevention of eating disorders my personal and professional focus.
Senator Ayotte also believes that eating disorder prevention and treatment, and indeed all mental health issues, deserve parity. She has found it so important in fact, that she and three others, Senators Klobuchar, Moore- Capito, and Baldwin, introduced legislation this past July to create grant programs that allocate money to the many educators and health care professionals who are in a position to intervene and get help for those who are suffering with an eating disorder. This legislation is called the Anna Westin Act, in honor of Anna Westin, a young woman from Senator Klobuchar’s home state of MN. Anna died when she was only 21, as a direct result of her struggle with Anorexia Nervosa.
In our state alone we have approximately 45,000 people that we know of who currently have an eating disorder-not just Anorexia Nervosa, which has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, but also Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. The men and women who are suffering need and deserve care. Their families need and deserve support; not just in my home state of NH, but everywhere.
I am proud my state representatives works so hard in addressing mental health issues, and issues that affect the safety and wellness of women and families, including her leadership on various pieces of legislation on domestic violence, sexual assault, and family safety.
Senator Ayotte has truly become a leader in mental health, leading the passage of the Excellence in Mental Health Act in 2014 which expands access to intensive community-based services for people with serious mental health disorders, leading a letter to HHS and the Department of Labor, urging them to enforce mental health parity, and of course being our amazing leader on the Anna Westin Act.
Senator, as you go out from here and fight on our behalf for this cause that we all care so deeply about, we offer you our support and give you our most heartfelt thanks.
It is my honor to present you with the Eating Disorder Coalition’s 2015 Champion for Eating Disorders award for your amazing work on behalf of the Eating Disorders community.