She won a precedent-setting court case in 2011 requiring insurance companies to pay for stays in residential treatment centers for eating disorders. Now, Jeanene Harlick — who has struggled with anorexia herself — has begun writing an expose attacking the ineffective methods and lack of evidence-based approaches that characterize many centers in what she calls a “Rehab Racket.”
On A Disordered World, Harlick writes: “Back in 2011, when my case prevailed, I was happy I won – I was happy more people would get – and continue to get – much-needed treatment. Most of all, I was happy my parents got their money back. But now I question whether my case was such a resounding victory. Now I wonder whether maybe insurance companies have a right to dispute covering an expensive form of treatment that has no evidence to support its efficacy, nor shell out $1,000 daily to centers who don’t provide transparency or use science-based practices. If I could do everything over again, I would sue the treatment centers, not Blue Shield: to get a refund for a product centers never delivered on – and to sanction a system that is not only exacerbating many women’s illness, but destroying our careers and personal lives, brainwashing our families and sometimes, even, killing us.”
“Anorexia is widely known to be the most lethal of psychiatric illnesses: my population has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder and a markedly reduced life expectancy,” writes Harlick. “And more than half of deaths from anorexia occur from suicide. Compared to the general public, people who suffer from anorexia are 57 times more likely to die of suicide. It is my belief that the inappropriate treatment being administered to older adults with long-term anorexia is playing a role in this. Because when you place hope in a system that says its ‘evidence-based’ practice will make you better, but you fail –- over, and over, and over again to maintain your recovery, post-discharge –- you blame yourself. You think, ‘These reputable centers, they’ve told me they’re providing me the most current, research-based care; they tell me their prescription for recovery is right, and proven, and that if it didn’t work for me, I’m the problem, not them. I’m the one who hasn’t ‘fully surrendered’ to recovery… So clearly it’s me who’s inherently defective, not them; clearly, I’m a hopeless case and clearly, I should stop fighting for my recovery, because it’s never going to happen.”
Harlick writes that this article is the first in a series.
The Eating Disorders “Residential Treatment Industrial Complex”: Harm or Help? Part 1 of an Investigative Series (A Disordered World, June 27, 2015)