COLUMBIA — Lauren Meyer, 16, puts it pretty bluntly: There’s no place in Columbia for people like her — people with eating disorders.
And it doesn’t appear to be an overstatement.
With the closing on March 3 of McCallum Place Eating Disorder Center, the first specialized treatment center of its kind in mid-Missouri, Columbia remains without a place people can go for in-patient, outpatient and extended partial hospitalization for an eating disorder. The clinic also offered group counseling.
Women ages 15 to 24 are the most vulnerable, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Men do develop eating disorders but, historically, they have made up a smaller number of the total.
Young adults make up about 24 percent of Boone County’s population, yet, the closest treatment facilities to Columbia — Castlewood and McCallum Place — are in St. Louis, said Kayan Phoebe Wan, a psychologist at the MU Student Health Center.
The importance of the specialized care these facilities offer is not only the treatment of eating disorders but also the management of complications that often result from eating disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse, according to the American Psychological Association.
While a psychologist can “identify important issues that need attention and develop a treatment plan,” according the American Psychological Association, “for children and adolescents, the recommended treatment model is the team approach.”
Not only are there no treatment centers available for this team approach, but support groups are a scarcity. Meyer, who participated in the partial hospitalization program at McCallum Place for seven months, attended the facility’s alumni support group after her intensive treatment until the center closed its doors.
“I started getting really bad and my family started noticing,” Meyer said. She used track and field as a cover for what started as compulsive exercise and then turned into restrictive eating. Anorexia nervosa binge purge-type was her official diagnosis. After receiving treatment, McCallum Place offered support group sessions.
“That support was much needed,” Meyer said. “When you have an eating disorder, it’s so easy to slip back into behaviors when you don’t have constant support.”
The danger of not having group support, Meyer said, is that two people can begin to rely on each other without the oversight of a professional. There’s a risk of a negative co-dependency developing.
One national organization that focuses on eating disorders does have a presence in Columbia: Overeaters Anonymous.
Overeaters Anonymous has adapted its treatment program from the 12-step recovery process used in Alcoholics Anonymous programs.
“People with an eating disorder tend to be secretive about their illness, so it is difficult to form a group,” Wan said…