Assemblywomen Marilyn Piperno and Kim Eulner are sounding the alarm after a troubling report highlighted the disturbing rise and lack of resources for New Jersey residents faced with eating disorders.
“Eating disorders do not get the attention they deserve as a mental health issue. Anorexia is the second most deadly of all psychiatric disorders, and since the pandemic the number of eating disorders in teenagers has nearly doubled. As public servants focused on mental health, it is imperative that we do whatever we can to bring attention to this issue,” Piperno said.
The New Jersey legislature is considering making the last week of February “Eating Disorders Awareness Week”, but the proposed bill has not received a hearing in committee, the crucial first step to becoming a law. Piperno and Eulner plan to join the bill as sponsors and urge their colleagues to follow their lead to bring light to this chronically under-looked issue.
“With public health seemingly at the forefront of the legislature’s attention the past few years, it is even more frustrating that eating disorders have not been adequately addressed,” said Eulner.
Across the country, the yearly economic cost of eating disorders is estimated at $64.7 billion, with 53,918 emergency room visits and account for one death every 52 minutes, equal to 10,200 deaths per year.
For New Jersey, the yearly economic cost is an estimated $1.8 billion, and it is reported that about 9% of New Jersey residents will be afflicted by an eating disorder during their lifetime.
New Jersey residents who utilize Medicare or Medicaid have experienced problems seeking experts on the topic of eating disorders. Treatment for eating disorders requires expert knowledge on a variety of psychological topics that many doctors do not possess. These experts often work independently of the public insurance system, thus creating a barrier for proper treatment.
“There is a lack of knowledge regarding the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders among primary care providers, who could help treat and detect these disorders earlier,” added Piperno.
Additionally, according to a report done by the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders, people of color are half as likely to receive proper care for eating disorders. There is also less awareness of eating disorders in minority communities, and a longstanding stereotype says eating disorders only effect white female teenagers, but this is far from the truth.
“We need to bring awareness to the issue so that the public does not continue to push false stereotypes that are preventing people from receiving the care they need. Victims of eating disorders have no defined age, race, or gender” said Eulner.
Minorities not only are more hesitant to address eating disorders, but they have not always had the proper medical access to receive care. Educating medical professionals in minority communities about the signs of eating disorders is a goal for the assemblywomen, as well as bringing more awareness to the struggle of individuals who suffer from an eating disorder.
“We are focused on abolishing inequities in the mental health field. There is no reason all New Jersey residents should not have access to proper care for a problem as widespread as an eating disorder,” Piperno stated.
If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorder Association at 800-931-2237 or online at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
Assemblywomen Kim Eulner and Marilyn Piperno represent the 11th Legislative District in New Jersey's General Assembly, comprised of the following towns in Monmouth County: Allenhurst, Asbury Park, Colts Neck, Deal, Eatontown, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Interlaken, Loch Arbour, Long Branch, Neptune City, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Shrewsbury Borough, Shrewsbury Township, Tinton Falls, and West Long Branch.
If you require assistance or have any suggestions or ideas to help the district, please call the 11th Legislative District Assembly office at (732) 268-8968 or send an email to District11Help@njleg.org.