A major victory in the war agaist eating disorders has been made in Virginia.
On March 25, 2013, Governor Bob McDonnell signed the bill for parental education and school screenings for eating disorders into law. This marks a landmark victory in the fight against eating disorders.
The law, which goes into effect in July, will require that information about eating disorders be sent home annually to parents of students in grades 5-12; the information will inform parents about signs and symptoms of eating disorders, and what to do if they suspect their child might have an eating disorder. The Department of Education and the Department of Health must also develop a toolkit for how schools can carry out eating disorder screenings, should they opt to do so.
Here is an excerpt from the Press Release:
Commented Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), “NEDA’s Advocacy Program and our families led the way for this victory. It is a win-win for the field of eating disorders and the families in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is our hope that other states will follow this forward-thinking effort and that the legislation will serve as a model for the rest of the country. “
Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness among adolescents, have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and impact every organ system in the body. Early detection is key in preventing these potentially life-threatening illnesses and reducing mortality.
Patroned by Delegate Richard P. “Dickie” Bell (R – Staunton), HB 1406 never received a dissenting vote in the General Assembly. Initially passed 8-0 in the House Education Committee’s Students and Early Education subcommittee, a slightly amended version of the bill again passed unanimously out of subcommittee and went on to a 21-0 vote in the full House Education Committee. The Virginia House of Delegates approved HB 1406 99-0 on January 31. Referred directly by the full committee in the Senate, the Senate Education & Health Committee approved HB 1406 15-0. On February 11, the Senate of Virginia approved HB 1406 on a unanimous 40-0 vote.
HB 1406 also requires the Virginia Departments of Education and Health to jointly develop guidelines and implement policies for providing parent education information on eating disorders. The bill, now signed into law, also requires the Departments to consult the National Eating Disorders Association, as well as medical and education specialists, about the contents of delivery of the required information. Finally, HB 1406 also requires the Departments to jointly develop guidelines for a voluntary eating disorder screening program. Those school boards that wish to implement an eating disorder screening program for their students will now be empowered with the tools necessary to do so. Pursuant to HB 1406, the Departments of Education and Health must provide their guidelines to the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction for dissemination by no later than July 1, 2013. This ambitious deadline assures that Virginia’s public school students, and their parents, will be educated about eating disorders during the upcoming 2013 – 2014 school year.
The National Eating Disorders Association applauds the proactive approach the state of Virginia is taking, and commends their recognition of the seriousness of these illnesses.