Eating disorders: National joins calls for urgent govt action on 'non existent' care for patients

The Government is being lobbied to put more funding and support in place for those with eating...
The Government is being lobbied to put more funding and support in place for those with eating disorders. Photo: Getty
The National Party has put its weight behind desperate parents lobbying for urgent government action to provide support and funding for eating disorder services.

The Opposition's support comes after several months of the Herald highlighting the issue and speaking to parents, patients, survivors and experts about the growing number of people suffering eating disorders and a critical lack of resources to help in New Zealand.

Today Christchurch mother Rebecca Toms will present a petition to Parliament begging the Government to step in and fund urgent expert care and subsidy assistance for young people with eating disorders and their families.

At the moment there are just three government funded specialist eating disorder units in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch offering less than 25 beds.

Rebecca Toms and daughter Georgia who has an eating disorder and prompted her mother's fight for...
Rebecca Toms and daughter Georgia who has an eating disorder and prompted her mother's fight for more resources from the Government. Photo: Supplied
While more than 900 people were currently receiving specialist care, just under 300 were on waiting lists.

Experts estimate there are upward of 100,000 others who need help with potentially fatal disorders but did not meet the criteria to get treatment in the public system.

They are backing Toms' petition which will be presented at Parliament a day after World Eating Disorder Day.

Toms, currently paying hundreds of dollars a week for private care for her daughter including a GP, psychologist, psychiatrist and dietician, said the situation was simply not good enough.

"There is a gaping hole in our society for the care of those battling this life threatening illness.

"There is an unequivocal dismissive approach - we don't seem to care."

National Party mental health spokesman Matt Doocey. Photo: Supplied
National Party mental health spokesman Matt Doocey. Photo: Supplied
National also says the situation needs addressing urgently.

"People of all ages throughout New Zealand are suffering due to a lack of treatment available for eating disorders," the party's mental health spokesman, Matt Doocey, said.

"The current state of services available for those who have an eating disorder is hugely concerning.

"Frontline workers have reported cases doubling and tripling over the past year, but services to support New Zealand families remain non-existent.

"The only support available for families on wait lists for treatment, or those rejected from wait lists, is a volunteer group of six parents that the Ministry of Health refuses to fund."

That group was the Eating Disorder Association and chair Nicki Wilson said the Government needed to admit the mental health system was "failing New Zealanders with eating disorders.".

"We don't even know how many people in New Zealand are suffering because there is no data.

"EDANZ receives calls around the clock from parents desperate for support, and healthcare workers begging us to continue supporting patients while they wait for treatment… We are stretched beyond our means.

Doocey said the situation was "yet another example" of the Government failing to manage mental health services across the board.

"We've seen a lot of announcements from Labour about its investment in mental health, but change isn't happening on the coalface," Doocey said.

"Young Kiwis are suffering from a very treatable illness but aren't receiving the support they need from our mental health services.

"We shouldn't be giving parents end of life plans for an illness that could be easily prevented with early intervention."

Doocey is calling on the Government to take responsibility for the "poor state of services" for those suffering from an eating disorder and to take action towards reviewing the services available.

The petition will be presented at Parliament just before 11am today.

Meanwhile a woman who battled an eating disorder for 14 years has taken matters into her own hands and will open New Zealand's first not-for-profit residential recovery facility next year.

Kristie Amadio could not get the help she needed to save her life in New Zealand so took herself to the US and funded her own seven-month recovery.

Since then she has trained and travelled the world learning about eating disorders and dedicates her life to helping others.

She recently secured a house in North Canterbury where she will run the Recovered Living New Zealand specialist eating disorder treatment centre.

The centre is touted as a world-class quality facility with a wealth of expertise and a "fierce belief in every client's ability to recover".

It will be run by a team of highly trained professionals from the US and New Zealand to provide 24/7 residential eating disorder recovery support as well as day and partial programmes for people at all stages of their eating disorders.

The RLNZ home will have space for a total of 12 clients at a time, six in the residential setting and six in the day and partial programme.

Amadio said it would cost $1.2 million a year to operate and fundraising was off to a great start but she needed another $400,000 to get the ball rolling.

"Recovery is possible and more needs to be done to save Kiwi lives," she said.

"Eating disorders are absolutely treatable conditions - but it takes a village, and it takes time."

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