Eating disorder legislation focused on prevention, protections headed to committee

Mental Health Colorado says one in 10 Coloradans lives with an eating disorder
Posted at 9:54 PM, Mar 20, 2023

DENVER — Em Troughton, 26, began struggling with their eating disorder (ED) in high school, but says it got worse when they got to college in California after experiencing a traumatic event.

A few months after the incident, Troughton was at a treatment facility in Berkeley.

“If I hadn't gone to treatment, I don't think I’d be alive,” said Troughton. “Essentially I went through all the stages of care. And I did it three times through various relapses."

Troughton eventually came to Colorado during their recovery.

“Treatment was lifesaving for me, but also incredibly traumatic,” they said.

Trauma is something some Colorado lawmakers are trying to stop with two bills. Senate Bill 23-014 focuses on ED prevention, and Senate Bill 23-176 focuses on protections for people with an ED.

Lawmakers say this is the first time legislation focused on eating disorders has made its way through the Colorado legislature, and they’re hopeful it will make it through committee without too many changes.

Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, one of the bill sponsors, says the protections bill would add compassionate care for all ED patients, prevent people under the age of 18 from buying diet pills without a prescription and remove the antiquated body mass index (BMI) criteria for private insurance and Medicaid.

“The goal is really BMI as a tool. It’s one piece of information you should utilize in making healthcare decisions for folks, but it’s not the end all be all,” said Moreno.

According to Mental Health Colorado, one in 10 Coloradans lives with an eating disorder.

“We have really been fixated on body and body image and weight as the sort of definitive measures of an eating disorder, and that really limits our ability to understand health and well-being and make sure we are supporting people who are struggling with all of those things,” said Vincent Atchity, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado.

Troughton says they’ve been removed from treatment a few times due to their BMI. They are hopeful the bills will make their way to the governor’s desk.

“I think it’s the most important legislation I have come across this session,” they said.

Moreno plans to make a few changes to the legislation based on some feedback. He’s hopeful both bills will make it through the Health and Human Services Committee hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday.

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