No treatment scheme for eating disorder sufferers

People with eating disorders are not entitled to the same funding for treatment programmes granted to those who suffer from addictions to drugs or alcohol, the HSE has said.

The revelation comes as a person with an eating disorder shared their battle to pay for treatment in a letter to the Irish Examiner.

The sufferer hits out at the State’s “discriminatory policy” towards people with eating disorders, after they hit “rock bottom” at Christmas and sought a residential recovery programme at a treatment centre.

“I was informed that if my addiction took the form of mis-use of alcohol or drugs there is funding available via HSE to receive treatment. For eating disorder treatment no such funding is available. Having already spent at least three times this amount on treatment over the years, I do not have access to €8,000. So, what are my options now?” the letter said. A HSE spokesperson said there is no funding in place to assist people with eating disorders to take part in residential recovery programmes.

“Referrals for children, adolescents and adults with eating disorders should be made to the relevant general Child and Adult Mental Health Services/ Adult Community Mental Health Teams, where it may be possible for these multi-disciplinary teams to manage uncomplicated cases on a community basis to deliver evidence-based interventions in the most appropriate community setting,” the HSE said.

“While the HSE does not have residential treatment programme for individuals, it does recognise that because of the complexity of some cases, an in-patient stay may be required in the overall care and treatment.

“Individuals requiring an in-patient service are facilitated in either the Child and Adult Mental Health Services or an adult in-patient unit which are closely associated with general hospitals to ensure easy access to the full range of medical diagnostic and treatments, including dietitians and other relevant personnel which are essential for comprehensively dealing with eating disorders.”

The letter’s author says that eating disorders are addictions just as harmful as alcohol or drug addictions.

“The fundamental issue here is not my personal situation but, why this discriminatory policy is in place in Ireland today? Do we have an understanding of how the silent killer of eating disorders is ruining lives everyday? Are we aware that eating disorders represent the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses?”

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