An Inpatient Program – A Matter of Life and Death

The Eating Disorder Foundation of NL is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. I say celebrating because our awareness programs have encouraged large numbers of families to come forward for support and direction resulting in many more recovery outcomes. It’s important to recognize once again that eating disorders are at epidemic levels in our Province and across Canada. While the primary family groups affected by eating disorders remain in the 12-23 age group recent statistics indicate that the demographics for eating disorders are changing and now include almost all age groups. The recent inclusion of Binge Eating as a full eating disorder confirms our understanding that the growth in the rate and type of eating disorders far exceeds our earlier projections. We now estimate, supported by recent research, that we have about 10-12 thousand families experiencing some form of disordered eating/eating disorder in our Province.

The extensive Report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Eating Disorders issued November 2014 reported that the mortality rate for eating disorders is in the 15-20% range, the highest rate for all Mental Health and Addictions. It further stated that health records often do not report eating disorders as the cause of death/suicides and that some 1500 Canadians per year die from the complications of eating disorders. The Standing Committee also recommended an increase in inpatient beds due to the life threatening nature of the disorder. This is critically important as research also indicates that anorexia relapse rates are as high as 35% over what can be a 7 year recovery time frame resulting in frequent and more intensive inpatient treatment. The Foundation has been advocating for a Provincial Intensive Care Specialized Inpatient Eating Disorder Program for several years and I am pleased to report that progress is being achieved. We remain optimistic that such a program will be a reality in 2016. The former Minister of Health in response to this need appointed a knowledgeable Working Group to advise him on what steps are necessary to implement an inpatient program. The work of the group has been completed and a firm recommendation to proceed will be on the Minister’s desk soon. The previous and current governments made a firm public pledge in their recent policy documents to implement an Inpatient Program and it is the intention of the Foundation to monitor this commitment on a daily basis if necessary.

There has been significant progress made in most treatment and support programs for eating disorders in particular the good work of the Janeway and the Hope Outpatient programs. However, it is my view that we are in the early stages of fully understanding the scope and depth of eating disorders and their impact on families. We need to be vigilant and not let eating disorders become a more serious healthcare issue then they are today. Common sense tells us that early awareness, early treatment and more responsive and specialized healthcare programs are the keys to more successful outcomes. I believe our partners share this view and are working together in the best interest of our families.

The real success of the Foundation and its working partners lies in the collaborative efforts of many community groups who are responding to the growing need for improved treatment and support services. While much has been achieved much has to be done if we are to realize our objective of providing a reasonable and effective level of treatment for our eating disorder families. Nothing less is acceptable.

I am hopeful and confident that 2016 will be a year of continued improvement in treatment services and most importantly that our healthcare leadership will respond to the need for a specialized inpatient program, recognizing that it’s not an optional program but a matter of life and death for an increasing number of families. The Foundation and its partners are firmly committed to achieving its primary objective of reducing and in time eliminating loss of life from eating disorders. We believe this can be achieved to a large extent by the implementation of an inpatient program.

We want to recognize and congratulate the hundreds of families who came forward this year and participated in our family support programs; the first and most critical steps necessary for a successful recovery outcome.

Speaking for our eating disorder families I want to thank our Board of Directors, the Department of Health, the Health Authorities, the HOPE Program, the Janeway, the Body Image Network, the MUN Counselling Center, our volunteers, our funding partners and most importantly our loyal and committed staff, Paul, Tina, Patricia and Lucy who make this happen everyday.

Vince Withers

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