Legislators Announce Plans to Improve Eating Disorder Awareness, Education

HARRISBURG – Senator Chuck McIlhinney (R-10), Senator Daylin Leach (D-17) and Representative Steven Santarsiero (D-31) unveiled a proposal today that would improve education, identification and treatment of eating disorders.

Senate Bill 1284 and House Bill 1959 would require schools to provide educational information regarding eating disorders to parents with children in 5th-12th grades.

In addition, the legislation includes guidelines that will allow school boards to voluntarily develop an eating disorder screening program, specifies training requirements for personnel and volunteers, and provides the framework for parental notification procedures in the event of a positive indication of an eating disorder.

The legislators announced the proposal during a press conference in the Capitol Media Center today.

“Those who suffer from eating disorders face serious consequences in every phase of life, and victims may go months or even years before the signs and symptoms are recognized,” Senator McIlhinney said. “The introduction of these measures is the first step in the journey to help steer these individuals toward a happier and healthier life.”

“This legislation gives parents vital information to help identify eating disorders, and encourages educators to partner with parents in this fight,” Senator Leach said. “Symptoms of eating disorders are often elusive, and eating disorders themselves are chronically under-reported.  With these tools, we will catch signs early, giving victims the best chance of rehabilitation and recovery.”

Approximately one in 30 Pennsylvanians suffer from an eating disorder, and more than 21 million Americans deal with these afflictions on a daily basis. The signs and symptoms of these disorders are often difficult for friends and family to detect.

“Many parents have shared with me the disappointment they have felt at not recognizing an eating disorder in their child sooner,” Representative Santarsiero said. “This is an opportunity to connect parents with resources to help with the potentially life-threatening conditions related to eating disorders.”

Senator McIlhinney noted that representatives of the National Eating Disorders Association played a significant role in drafting the legislation and bringing the issue to the attention of lawmakers. Members of the organization joined legislators at the press conference in support of the proposal.

“This is an exciting day for Pennsylvania and for all those impacted by eating disorders,” said National Eating Disorders Association President and CEO Lynn Grefe. “I am grateful for the support of Representative Santarsiero, Senator McIlhinney and Senator Leach, and for their leadership in bringing attention to the seriousness of eating disorders. I also thank all the volunteers who came out today to share their stories and speak out for this important cause.  I hope this is the first important step to progress in the fight against eating disorders in Pennsylvania.”

Additional information regarding eating disorder awareness and education is available online at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

The press conference also featured remarks from Emily Rosenberg, a Pennsylvania resident and volunteer eating disorders advocate.

“I am proud to be working with such supportive legislators in Pennsylvania to bring eating disorder awareness to educators and parents. The more people who are educated on eating disorders, the more lives that can be spared the struggles of an eating disorder,” Rosenberg said.

Video, audio and photos from the press conference are available online at www.senatormcilhinney.com.

CONTACT: Heather Cevasco (717) 787-7305