Saturday, July 16, 2011

What is the FREED Act?

Someone asked me a question today, "What is the FREED Act?" I'm happy to answer that!

The FREED Act is the "Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders Act", the first bill in the history of Congress to address eating disorders research, treatment and education and prevention. The FREED Act was first introduced in the 111th Congress by Congressman Patrick Kennedy in the House and by Senators Harkin, Franken and Klobuchar in the Senate. This Congressional Session (the 112th), the FREED Act was reintroduced in the House by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin, and in the Senate by Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa, and Senators Al Franken, and Amy Klobuchar, both from Minnesota. The FREED Act is a "stand alone bill" (ie: not attached to any other piece of legislation) and it has bi-partisan support (ie: both Republicans and Democrats support the FREED Act)

How will the FREED Act make a difference? In many ways!

The FREED Act is divided into three main sections: Research, Education and Prevention, and Treatment. Below is a brief summary of what each of those sections of the FREED Act will do when it passes:

The Research section would fund a research agenda in order to:
  • Know the numbers. Determine the prevalence, incidence, and correlates of all eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and eating disorder not otherwise specified).
  • Know the death rates. Determine the morbidity and mortality rates associated with all eating disorders and provide a public report of this data annually.
  • Know the costs or “economic burden” of eating disorders. Undertake the necessary investigations to conduct an economic analysis of the costs of eating disorders in the United States, including years of productive life lost, missed days of work, reduced work productivity, costs of treatment, hospitalizations, costs of medical and psychiatric comorbidities, (cost to family, cost to society) etc.
  • Better understand the etiology of eating disorders and effective treatments.
  • Provide training opportunities for new researchers.
The Education & Prevention section would:
  • Study mandatory BMI reporting in school. Determine the outcome of measuring BMI in schools and reporting the results to parents (including measuring eating disorders symptoms, and incidence of teasing or bullying based on body size).
  • Grant Program of the Education and Training for all Health Professionals. Train health professionals, to identify, prevent, appropriately treat and address the complications of eating disorders (using a team approach).
  • Addressing eating disorders in the Schools. Programs to train educators on effective eating disorders screening, detection, prevention and appropriate methods of assistance.
  • Programs to improve the identification of students with eating disorders and increasing student and parent awareness of eating disorders.
  • Educating the public through Public Service Announcements (PSAs). Use PSAs to educate the public on types and the seriousness of (prevalence, co-morbidities, health consequences –both physical and mental) eating disorders, how to obtain help, discrimination and bullying based on mental illness, body size, and the effects of media on self esteem and body image.
  • Bring eating disorders into already existing obesity initiatives. Federally funded campaigns to fight obesity should also address eating disorders. Federal studies should include eating disorder related questions.
The Treatment section would:
(In the House bill):
  • All Americans with eating disorders deserve access to care. Any insurer that provides health coverage for physical illness must provide coverage for eating disorders.
  • Care according to universally accepted criteria. Insurers are to follow standards of care as written in the Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Patients with Eating Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association.
  • The treatment setting must be appropriate to the patient’s needs and clinical presentation. Decisions regarding the treatment setting must include individual variables such as age, sex, ability to manage severity or co-morbidity, family involvement, and staff expertise and training.
  • Eating Disorders are complex conditions and require comprehensive treatment approaches. All treatment modalities should be covered, including but not limited to family, individual and group therapies, nutrition counseling, psychopharmacology, body Image therapy, and medical treatment.
  • Eating disorders treatment made accessible to people of low income by including eating disorder treatment to the services covered by Medicaid. The bill also requires that children covered by Medicaid be screened for eating disorders.
  • Advocacy support for those who are sick. The bill includes a Patient Advocacy Program where individuals needing care have support navigating insurance and receiving the treatment they need.
(In the Senate bill)
  • Eating disorders treatment made accessible to people of low income by including eating disorder treatment to the services covered by Medicaid. The bill also requires that children covered by Medicaid be screened for eating disorders.
  • Advocacy support for those who are sick. The bill includes a Patient Advocacy Program where individuals needing care have support navigating insurance and receiving the treatment they need.
A little history of The FREED Act: The FREED Act was created, and then carefully vetted, by numerous eating disorder professionals, researchers, treatment providers, parents, sufferers, and others who care about eating disorders. The Eating Disorders Coalition (a coalition of 35 Member Organizations and individual and family advocates) held National Policy Conferences on Capitol Hill in 2004 and 2005 where experts and those who care about eating disorders were invited to participate in "brain-storming" sessions to create a "Dream Bill to Address Eating Disorders". After we came up with a "Dream Bill", our Policy Director, Jeanine Cogan, sought out a Member of Congress who would "champion" our issue. (a "champion" is someone who will introduce the bill on the floor of the House and/or Senate, as well as a "champion" is someone who cares about the issue the bill addresses) ~ Congressman Patrick Kennedy became a ready and tireless champion of the bill and his staff worked very hard to help us come up with the official bill language. Once we had that official bill language (thanks to Legislative Council) we then came up with the name: the FREED Act, the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders (you can read the actual bill language by going to: and plugging in the bill number --listed at the end of this blog). After 5 years of crafting, drafting and re-drafting, the FREED Act was ready to be introduced. We did so on February 25, 2009 in the House. It was a monumental day in the history of the EDC and for all those impacted by eating disorders. The Senate version of the FREED Act was then introduced on April 26, 2010. In the 111th Congress, the House version of the FREED Act gained 52 co sponsors. The Senate version of the FREED Act gained 10 co sponsors in the 111th Congress. The FREED Act was reintroduced this year in the 112th Congress by our new champion in the House, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, and in the Senate by Senators Harkin, Franken and Klobuchar. Now we need to work on gaining co sponsors in order to help get the FREED Act passed into law.

How and why do we get the FREED Act passed into law?

How? We will get the FREED Act passed into law with your help. We need the help of all those affected by eating disorders to use their voice on Capitol Hill at EDC National Lobby Day and during our Letter Writing Campaigns. By using your voice and sharing your story at Lobby Day, you help educate Members of Congress and their staff about eating disorders and about why the FREED Act needs their co sponsorship. The more co sponsors we get, the better chance we have of getting a hearing --one of the key steps in the process of a bill becoming law. (I've attached the video to "I'm Just a Bill" at the end of this blog to address in more detail: how does a bill (like the FREED Act) become a law?)

Why? Passing the FREED Act would mean that every state in the country would be impacted by what the FREED Act addresses (research, education and prevention, treatment of eating disorders). In short order: Every person affected by an eating disorder would benefit from the FREED Act. It would save lives.

What can you do to help get the FREED Act passed? First and foremost: No matter how you are affected by eating disorders (professional, sufferer, care-giver, etc.), stay healthy so that you can use your voice to affect change! Then:
  • Make people aware that the FREED Act exists by sharing this blog
  • Ask people to come to become a member of the EDC (
  • Come to EDC National Lobby Day
  • Become a fan of the EDC on FB
  • Follow the EDC on Twitter
  • Join in our Letter-Writing campaign
  • Subscribe to our blog
I hope this is helpful and helps makes clearer what the FREED Act is and why it is necessary for you to get involved. ANY questions you have, please contact us by commenting on this blog or by commenting on our FB page.

One of our upcoming blogs will focus on: "How Will the FREED Act Impact Me Personally? --voices of those affected by eating disorders"

Thank you for caring and for helping to pass this life-saving legislation.
Yours from the Hill, Kathleen

  • To read the full text of the FREED Act go to: and enter bill numbers: HR 1448 (for the House version) and S 481 (for the Senate version)
  • To learn more about how a bill becomes a law, visit:

1 comment:

Bella said...

Thanks for this succinct overview of the FREED Act! I'm planning a NEDAwareness Week at my high school this coming February but also want to contribute to lasting change, and I'm really interested in supporting the FREED Act. What can I do on top of joining the letter-writing campaign? As a Washingtonian, I would definitely be up to getting in touch with my state's Congress members and encouraging them to support the FREED Act, but I want to do this right. Any suggestions?