Thursday, July 30, 2015

#EDCActionAlert -Anna Westin Act


July 30, 2015
Washington, DC


 
Dear Eating Disorders Coalition advocates, activists and supporters: ‪#‎TheTimeIsNow‬ to use YOUR voice to advocate for the #‪#‎AnnaWestinAct‬.

Below are pictures of the simple (but very necessary) #EDCActionAlert.  The #EDCActionAlert involves you making just TWO phone calls and one Tweet. Your voice, these two calls and one Tweet CAN make a huge difference.

Please let us know how your calls go -- we'll be following on Twitter!

If you have ANY questions, please post in comments below or email: km@eatingdisorderscoalition.org
  











THANK YOU for considering giving of your precious time and energy to help ensure passage of the Anna Westin Act of 2015. ‪#‎AnnasLaw‬ is long overdue.






Friday, July 17, 2015

How A Bill Becomes a Law


July 17, 2015 

How A Bill Becomes a Law -- a 101 Primer on the Legislative Process

Hi everyone,

Was just thinking today about how complex our Legislative Process is and how little of it I actually learned as a high school senior in "Government Class."  My true education about the Legislative Process has come from working and advocating on Capitol Hill. Wow, was I green when I started working Capitol Hill --I had a lot to learn! I had never been to or watched a Congressional Hearing, I had never met with Committee Staff, let alone been fully aware of what they do versus regular staff, and I realized quickly that beyond "I'm Just a Bill", I had a lot of learning to do.  Luckily, people who work on Capitol Hill empathize with newbies.  They are very kind to answer questions, not shame a person when they don't know all the terms like "hopper" or all the procedures about "voting bells" (see picture above), and they never think a question is out of line or stupid.  ~ In the years since I first began advocating with the EDC, and in the years since I became Policy Assistant, and then later Policy Director, and Director of Social Media and Advocate Relations, I have never ever stopped learning about how things work on Capitol Hill.  I still have questions, I still have don't have all the answers when a staffer asks questions and from time to time, I still need to refer to "How Our Laws Are Made" to read the fine print about the Legislative Process (there's allllloooooottttt of fine print).

All that to say, I thought it might be helpful to share a 101 Primer on How A Bill Becomes A Law with anyone who is interested and encouraged to advocate for #AnnasLaw.  Below is borrowed from one of the best explanatory books about Congress, "Congress for Dummies"

(highly encourage you get a copy if you like to advocate on Capitol Hill).  If you find this overly simplistic, then please, by all means, join the nerd in me and (re-) read How Our Laws Are Made tonight ------>

Here is the Congress for Dummies explanation of How A Bill Becomes A Law:

  1. The bill is drafted.
    The bill must be introduced by a member of Congress.
  2. A member of Congress introduces the bill, and the clerk assigns it a number.
    Most bills never receive press attention after the introduction. Members of Congress often issue press releases regarding a bill’s introduction, both to generate publicity for it and to create a paper trail for their reelection campaigns.
    Other stakeholders who support or oppose the bill may get their opinions out too, either to make sure the bill is dead on arrival or to mobilize support to see it through to the next round.
  3. The bill is referred to committee and (possibly) subcommittee.
    The Speaker of the House and the presiding officer in the Senate are responsible for assigning a bill to a committee in their respective chambers. The committee chair may then assign it to a subcommittee.
    Committee assignments are sometimes obvious; for example, the ratification of a free trade agreement falls under the House Ways and Means or Senate Finance subcommittees for trade. But often, which committee has jurisdiction over a bill is less clear-cut. Because committees can bring newly proposed legislation to a screeching halt, supporters naturally favor assigning a bill to a committee in which it’s likely to receive the most support.
  4. Committee hearings are held.
    A committee hearing is the primary method for members of Congress to learn about an issue. Hearings usually include a panel of stakeholders from different sectors who discuss the many aspects of the bill in consideration. Hearings are usually required to be publicly accessible unless specific sensitivities, such as national security concerns, come into play.
    Most bills never leave this stage. Instead they are tabled, which means set aside and likely never looked at again.
  5. The subcommittee and full committee members mark up the bill.
    When hearings are complete, subcommittee and committee members examine the bill line by line and offer amendments. While some amendments may be intended to genuinely improve the bill (at least in the proposing member’s opinion), less politically palatable amendments known as poison pills may be offered with the intent to wreck the whole process and force supporters to vote against their own legislation later on.
  6. The bill is reported out and calendared.
    The bill and a written report about it prepared by the committee are sent to the relevant chamber and placed on its calendar.
  7. The bill is read on the floor of the chamber, and amendments are debated.
    As with the committee process, floor procedures are used by supporters in Congress to try to push a bill to a vote with minimum commotion and by opponents to effectively kill it in its tracks. This step is the final chance for stakeholders to influence the text of a bill before it goes to a vote.
  8. The bill goes to a full vote.
    Like any vote, congressional votes are moments when each side scrambles to mobilize supporters and make sure they show up to make their opinions count. While private sector and special interest groups obviously cannot vote themselves, they work to galvanize support within Congress, the media, and public opinion.
  9. A bill that passes goes to conference committee.
    The House and Senate must both pass the same bill for it to be forwarded to the President’s desk. But at this stage, they likely have passed similar but still different pieces of legislation. To reconcile the differences, an ad hoc committee of members from both chambers (a conference) comes together and negotiates a common text.
  10. The House and Senate vote on the revised bill.
    After the conference committee hammers out a common text, both chambers vote on the revised bill. If the bill is approved, it’s then delivered to the President’s desk.
  11. The President signs or vetoes the bill.
    Even if he signs a bill into law, a president often uses so-called signing statements to attach his own interpretation to the measure, which can affect how it’s implemented.
    If a president vetoes a bill, Congress may override the veto with a two-thirds majority in each chamber.
  12. The bill becomes law.
    Laws often leave it up to federal bureaucrats and regulators to determine the exact way in which it will be applied. Drafting such regulations is another key element of Washington’s policymaking process.


    We hope that was helpful to read --if you have any questions about the Legislative Process, please just ask.

    Have a healthy night, ~Kathleen MacDonald, Director of Social Media and Advocate Relations


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Senate Version of #AnnasLaw

Dear EDC Supporters,

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
We are so very very happy and honored to share with you this news: Senator Kelly Ayotte has agreed ‪#‎AnnasLaw‬ in the Senate.  Senator Ayotte's commitment to ‪#‎mentalhealth‬ is just one of the reasons we are so proud to have her as our Republican lead. 
Some of the Senator's legislative actions on #mentalhealth include:

‪#‎SenatorAyotte‬ has introduced or cosponsored several bills that seek to strengthen our nation's mental health system, including The Mental Health First Aid Act (S. 153) which would provide support for training programs to help the public identify, understand, and address crisis situations safely.  In addition, #SenatorAyotte cosponsored the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act, which included modified provisions of the Mental Health First Aid Act and the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, as well as other important mental health initiatives.  When the bill came before the Senate as an amendment, it was approved by a vote of 95-2! 

#SenatorAyotte was a cosponsor of the Caring for America's Heroes Act (S. 2276).  The Caring for America's Heroes Act sought to improve mental health care for military dependents and retirees.  This bill removed inpatient day-limits to promote access to medically necessary and appropriate mental health services, helping to ensure that military dependents and retirees covered under TRICARE are treated in the same manner for inpatient mental health services as they would be for treatment of physical injuries.  This is a bill that EDC advocates have worked to proudly support, as well.

For her leadership on mental health legislation, the Senator has been honored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Council for Behavioral Health.

We are honored and encouraged to have #SenatorAyotte by our side as we work to formally introduce #AnnasLaw in the Senate.  Thank you to the Senator and her staff! ‪#‎TheTimeISNow‬ to ensure ‪#‎Not1MoreLife2ED‬

Friday, June 12, 2015

#AnnasLaw by Kitty Westin



EDC guest blog post by Kitty Westin:

I am honored to write a guest blog for the Eating Disorders Coalition about the Anna Westin Act of 2015(HR2515). 

I am Anna’s mom and I have been working for the past 15 years, since Anna died, to pass eating disorder specific legislation that will help prevent other families from suffering like our family has.  This has not been easy and at times it has felt like I was pushing an iceberg uphill.  I feel more hopeful now then I have ever felt; my work and the work of countless others is paying off!  The EDC has created a bill that has a good chance of passing and finally realizing the dream of fighting eating disorders with Federal legislation.

Now that the Anna Westin Act ("Anna’s Law") has been introduced, the EDC thought it would be helpful for advocates to learn how the “dream” of eating disorder legislation became a reality.  You may remember your 8th grade civics class and the educational short film “I’m Just a Bill”? [Check it out on YouTube for a blast from the past!!] ... Well, the EDC began working on federal legislation to address eating disorders just 15 years ago.  The EDC policy team has over 25 years of experience working on mental health issues on Capitol Hill and we have a wealth of experience and we understand the good, the bad and the ugly of politics.

Like the video "I'm Just A Bill" shows, developing, introducing and finally passing federal legislation is complex, time consuming and can be frustrating at times.  Before new legislation is introduced, there are countless planning meetings and thousands of hours spent flushing things out behind the scenes.  Hours of discussions and hundreds of revisions take place before a proposed bill is ready to “shop” around in Congressional offices.  Finding sponsors who will support the proposed bill is necessary, but sometimes it can be difficult.  Once a lead sponsor is identified, a new round of meetings take place before a bill is given the go ahead to be introduced in the House or the Senate.  This process can be arduous and may take many months or even years.  This process requires patience, building relationships, negotiations and accepting compromise.

Compromising during the drafting of a bill, especially when you are passionate about your cause, is difficult.  It is never easy to agree to eliminate specific language from a bill that you know will benefit your cause.  However, being unwilling to compromise can produce a bill that will likely die in committee, which is something no one wants.

A perfect example of compromise is the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 ("MHParity").  The EDC, along with our mental health colleagues and advocates, worked tirelessly to pass a parity bill that was comprehensive and included all diagnoses in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (often referred to as the DSM).  We both spoke at and attended Congressional hearings, met with Members of Congress in both the House and Senate and we lobbied hard for our cause.  However, in the final hours we had to compromise. The inclusive language that we fought so hard to keep in MHParity was taken out.  If we had continued to dig in and been unwilling to compromise, the MHParity bill would have died (aka: never passed), and along with it, the provisions of the bill that, since its passage, has allowed millions of people to access mental health and addiction treatment.  So, essentially, we lived to fight another day.

Currently, the EDC is in a similar situation as MHParity was.  As so many of you know, we all had a comprehensive bill called the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders ("FREED") Act that was first introduced in 2009.  FREED was the first comprehensive eating disorders-specific bill in US history --over 200 years of Congress.  To create FREED, the EDC held two national policy conferences that brought together patients, families, providers, researchers, education and prevention experts, advocates, and more --much like our EDC National Lobby Days do now.  At the time we first created and introduced FREED, both houses of Congress were fairly favorable to passing sweeping legislation that addressed mental health issues.  However, the climate changed in Washington, DC, and in order to get a bill introduced that had any chance of passing, we once again had to compromise.  For example, we eliminated language from FREED that would have put warning labels on diet pills and laxatives and we took out language that mandated that the American Medical Association teach medical students about eating disorders.  As important as those provisions are to the eating disorders community, we knew we had to compromise in order to introduce a bill that would be supported by both parties.

As the political climate continued to change in DC, the EDC had to once again step away and consider our next move.  The result of this process was the creation of a new eating disorders-specific bill: the Anna Westin Act of 2015 ("#AnnasLaw"). The decisions related to what to include and not include in #AnnasLaw were taken seriously and not done in a vacuum.  We worked hard, did our homework and sent our policy team into both Democratic and Republican offices to get ideas and feedback.  In addition, we spoke with EDC member organizations, individual advocates and we invited the public to contact the EDC with suggestions.  We took all ideas seriously and into consideration.  The components of #AnnasLaw were carefully thought out to make it appealing to both Democrats and Republicans.  Already, many of our friends in both the House and Senate have confirmed that they will support#AnnasLaw.

In addition, the EDC worked with our Republican and Democratic leaders over many months and negotiated several revisions before a final version of the Anna Westin Act was agreed upon.  To that end, we are especially grateful that we have bi-partisan support on Capitol Hill, which can be rare in this political climate.  Also, we fully understand that #AnnasLaw does not address every single issue that could be addressed in a bill --but we do firmly believe that the Anna Westin Act of 2015 is a very solid bill, with a high probability of passing into law (which is pertinent to helping us have a chance to create long-standing change).  We encourage you that it is important to keep in mind that our work will not cease once #AnnasLaw is introduced.  Once #AnnasLaw is signed by the President, then we immediately begin work to strengthen the bill and assist with the provisions within and the final rules (to the extent possible).  In essence, please be assured that the EDC will continue to work with members of Congress to address all of the issues important to the eating disorders community, via #AnnasLaw and other legislative and regulatory work.

The EDC sincerely hopes that the entire eating disorder community will get behind the Anna Westin Act.  I love the EDC, but/and, I am also Anna’s mom, so I come to you now as her mom:  I am asking you to join me in making certain that eating disorders get the attention of policy makers in Washington D.C.  To be perfectly honest, having a law introduced with my daughter’s name attached has brought me very mixed emotions.  I have felt extremely sad because it is too late for Anna.  I have felt anger because why has this taken so long? And, most importantly, I have renewed hope that we can get this done and Anna’s death will not have been in vain.  Anna’s law is NOT about Anna but it is about getting the attention of Congress in a way that will help the millions of people who are affected by eating disorders.  Together we can fight eating disorders by making certain that medical professionals and others are adequately trained, that Mental Health Parity is enforced and that we truly understand the power of advertising and the effect it has on the self-esteem of our youth. We know that by working together we can continue to make progress in the fight against eating disorders.  #TheTimeIsNow for #AnnasLaw.

To learn more about Anna Westin: https://youtu.be/kjFP_4P7EKc
To learn more about the EDC: www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Historic Day: #AnnasLawHR2515

Dear countless and tireless EDC Advocates...

Today is the historic day that the Anna Westin Act of 2015 was officially placed in the hopper on the floor of the House of Representatives...and #AnnasLaw was thus officially introduced as HR2515!!

We cannot find words enough to say how grateful we are to our champions on the Hill, Congressman Ted Deutch and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and their staff, for their commitment to helping us craft, draft, re-work, re-write and push #AnnasLaw through legislative counsel.

And although we will continue to try, at present, we simply cannot find words fitting enough to convey our thanks to EACH OF YOU.  For each of you  helped in countless ways throughout the existence of the +EDCoalition1 --whether you are a Member Organization or an individual advocate-- YOUR support, ideas and feedback were the inspiration for us conceiving that we should name a bill in memory of Anna Selina Westin. 
 

Anna's Law, like so many other pieces of legislation, is not a bill that will solve all the problems faced by all those impacted by eating disorders.  But Anna's Law IS a bill that WILL solve SO MANY problems...and that will lead to greater awareness, greater understanding, less stigma and less lives lost to eating disorders!! #AnnasLaw is a necessary step in the right direction, with bi-partisan support, for all those impacted by #eatingdisorders and we truly believe that #TheTimeIsNow to pass #AnnasLaw.

Since the time #AnnasLaw was placed in the hopper this morning, we have already lost another 5 lives (at minimum) to #eatingdisorders...a treatable disease.  Who were the five people?  Who did they leave behind?  What would their lives have become had they had access to adequate treatment, had their doctors been trained to identify and intervene...?  We will never know.  But what we DO know is that their deaths, just like Anna's, Leslie's, Reanna's, Nicole's, TJ's, and the countless others who have died from "ED", were unnecessary.  

^^^THEY ARE WHY: #TheTimeIsNow.  Because every 62 minutes we let go by without passing #AnnasLaw, at least one more precious life is lost.  #MembersofCongress, we call on you to be the change. Please, lend your name to the Anna Westin Act of 2015. 

May all those who are counting on #AnnasLaw be filled with a renewed hope today.  May all those who feel they don't have a voice against #eatingdisorders know that YOU DO have a voice and YOUR voice CAN make a difference...YOU CAN help pass #AnnasLaw. 


With heartfelt gratitude to all who made this day possible. ~The EDC

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

URGENT Action Alert

Dear EDC Advocates:
 
If you live in New Hampshire, please reach out to Senator Ayotte’s office THIS WEEK and encourage to become the Republican lead of the Senate version of the Anna Westin Act of 2015. Here are the two ways to do this:
• Phone- 202-224-3324
• Online- http://www.ayotte.senate.gov/?p=contact

 
Below are the scripts to follow in your email and/or call. 
Please keep your emails no more than three paragraphs b/c staff members (staffers) are busy and receive lots of emails every day. [If you call and the staffer has any questions that you can't answer, please just write down the Question and let them know that the EDC will get back to them with an Answer. Then, just email us the question and we'll follow up. :-)] 

Please share this with anyone you wish. Thank you, The EDC

EMAIL SCRIPT:

Dear Senator Ayotte,

My name is [Name] and I live in [City], New Hampshire and I am [list occupation --student, stay at home parent, etc.]. I’ve just heard from the Eating Disorders Coalition that you have shown interest in co-leading the Anna Westin Act of 2015! I am so thrilled that you are interested in taking up this issue that affects so many people, and I highly encourage the Senator to make the decision to take up this issue.
I care about eating disorders because [insert brief synopsis of personal story here.]  As you may know, Rep. Deutch [D-FL] and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL] will be introducing the House version of the Anna Westin Act within the next week. This will be the first time in nearly a decade that eating disorders legislation will be introduced with bipartisan support. I hope that we can do the same on the Senate side, with your support.

Sincerely, Name and Address

CALL SCRIPT:


If you call an office: Remember To Talk Slowly To The Staffer Who Answers The Phone…  "Hello, my name is [Name] and I live in [City], New Hampshire and I am [list occupation --student, stay at home parent, etc.]. I’ve just heard from the Eating Disorders Coalition that Senator Ayotte has shown interest in co-leading the Anna Westin Act of 2015! I am so thrilled that the Senator are interested in taking up this issue that affects so many people, and I highly encourage the Senator to make the decision to take up this issue.
I care about eating disorders because [insert brief synopsis of personal story here.]  As you may know, Rep. Deutch [D-FL] and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL] will be introducing the House version of the Anna Westin Act within the next week. This will be the first time in nearly a decade that eating disorders legislation will be introduced with bipartisan support. I hope that we can do the same on the Senate side, with your boss' support. The bill is designed to have a zero to almost zero CBO score.  Thank you so much for your time."

please let us (The EDC) know if you call/email the Senator's office.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

ACTION ALERT: EDCVirtualLobbyDay

Dear AMAZING advocates --

#TheTimeIsNow to use your voice to advocate for #AnnasLaw!!! If you aren't able to be in DC for #EDCNationalLobbyDay, you CAN STILL USE YOUR VOICE to advocate!  Here's how: #EDCVirtualLobbyDay!!

 
YOU ONLY NEED TO DO ONE THING ON MAY 13, 2015:

1. MAKE ONE PHONE CALL to your Congressman/woman’s office on May 13, 2015!

 OR

2.  FILL OUT ONE ONLINE CONTACT FORM (similar to an email) to your Congressman/woman’s office on May 13, 2015!



To find out WHO your Member of Congress is, please go to: www.house.gov and enter your zip code.

Whether you call or fill out an online form, here is a 'script' for you to use:

If you call an office: 

Remember To Talk Slowly To The Staff Member (staffer) Who Answers The Phone…

"Hello, my name is [Say your full name] from [City, State].  I am a constituent of the Congressman/ woman and I am calling today to request your boss’ support of the Anna Westin Act of 2015. [Pause for them to get a pen and paper ready.] Would you possibly be able to communicate this message to the team? [Likely the staffer will say yes, otherwise they may send you to a voicemail- This is all normal :-)] Then you share the following: The Anna Westin Act is a bipartisan bill to be introduced this week by Rep. Ted Deutch and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The Act covers the 3 T's- Training, Treatment, and Truth in Advertising.

o   Training of- Health professionals, School personnel, and the public
o   Treatment- Clarity of Parity for Residential Treatment Services
o   Truth in Advertisement- FTC study on whether or not there should be regulation over digitally altered (photoshopped) advertisements.

·         The bill is designed to have a zero to almost zero CBO score.

·        You can contact Rep. Deutch or Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s offices or the Eating Disorders Coalition Policy Director at kmason@eatingdisorderscoalition.org for more information.
·         Thank you so much. You can reach me at [your email address] or send letters to [your physical address.]"

Two Points:

1. If you fill out the online form, please use the script above --feel free to copy/paste ;-) 
2. If the staffer asks you any questions that you cannot answer, NO WORRIES!! Just let them know that you will follow up with the EDC and the EDC will get back to them.



After you make your calls or emails, please email Kathleen at: km@eatingdisorderscoalition.org or comment on our FB status about this Action Alert to let us and our fellow-advocates know that you participated ...and also please share what participating in this important Action Alert and using your voice meant to you.


Thank you so much for helping make a difference. ~ Our work continues… All of us here at the EDC