When Sydney Brokaw was young she was the picture of health. She enjoyed running in marathons and exploring the great outdoors. However, Brokaw was secretly battling a disease.

“I have dealt with disordered eating for many years — at least 12 years,” said Brokaw.

Brokaw was dealing with anorexia. Eventually, she was admitted to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Eating Disorder Program. There she endured intense treatments. Today she is on the road to recovery, but she is worried about the future of the program. Earlier this month, UI Hospitals and Clinics announced that it is modifying its eating disorder clinic.

“This is a very important thing to me,” said Brokaw. “It is the only inpatient unit in the state of Iowa and, a lot of medical insurances are not accepted out of state, so people are not able to even go out of state to get the help that they need.”

In response to the change, a petition was started online. So far, it has received thousands of signatures.

Brokaw said she is still recovering since attending the program but she has a message for UI Hospitals & Clinics.

“This is a critical part of the state. It is so needed,” said Brokaw. “It truly is saving people’s lives. It’s not only changing someone’s life [and] it is saving their life and they are to thank for saving my life.”

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics released a statement regarding modifying the Eating Disorder Program:

UI Hospitals & Clinics provides specialty care through its Eating Disorders Program, including an intensive partial hospitalization program, outpatient services, and acute care. Those with eating disorders who are experiencing life-threatening illness are admitted to the hospital to receive care from a multi-disciplinary team within a behavioral health unit. Once patients are stabilized and no longer in need of acute care, they may be referred to our Eating Disorders Program or community services for ongoing support.

In an effort to expand life-saving access to a growing number of Iowans with acute mental health care needs, UI Hospitals & Clinics is committed to allocating its resources to serve the greatest number of Iowans. The dedicated hospital beds and staff on the Eating Disorders Program’s inpatient residential care unit will now serve a wider range of acute behavioral health needs, including addiction and other life-threatening mental health issues, in addition to eating disorders. UI Hospitals & Clinics estimates this change will allow it to serve over 400 more Iowans each year.

This critical increase in capacity comes at a time when we are seeing unprecedented numbers of people experiencing acute mental health crises arriving in our emergency department. Yet it is still not enough to meet the demand we are seeing. We need more mental health resources – for all people with mental illnesses, including those with eating disorders.