Proposed senate bill to classify eating disorders as mental illness

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COLUMBIA - A proposed Missouri Senate bill that would classify eating disorders as a mental illness is just one step away from becoming law.

Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, who is sponsoring the legislation, said the bill has a special meaning to him.

"I know a family who lost a daughter to an eating disorder," Pearce said. 

If passed, health benefit plans that cover mental health illnesses would be required to cover treatment for eating disorders.

The bill summary states "the act further requires that the provided coverage include a broad array of specialist services as proscribed as necessary by the patient's treatment team".

"A eating disorder is a mental illness, that manifests physically," Pearce said. "It's bad for your heart, it's bad for your organs, makes you lose weight."

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 20 million women and 10 million men have suffered from an eating disorder sometime during their lives. 

The association cites stress, anxiety, and depression as a few of the contributing health factors. 

"You've got to treat the mental part before you can treat the physical part, that's what this bill is all about," Pearce said.

The bill had a hearing Wednesday with supporters from the Missouri Eating Disorder Council and the Missouri Psychiatric Association and other organizations testifying in support of the legislation.

Pearce said there was no one in opposition at the hearing.

*Eating Disorder Hotline:1-800-931-2237