Illawarra residents living with an eating disorder now have access to an internationally renowned treatment program.
The highly successful Monte Nido program, which operates across the US, is now available in Sydney and could extend to other areas, offering an out-of-hospital treatment pathway.
"There is a woeful lack of community-based treatment for people with eating disorders," said Butterfly Foundation chief executive Christine Morgan.
"Recovery is possible, however, with only 22 per cent of Australians who need treatment able to access it, there is an urgent need to provide more options. It was really important for us to look at something that can give people that extra support once they get out of hospital and even stop people from having to be admitted."
Monte Nido founder Carolyn Costin, who herself has recovered from an eating disorder, told the Mercury the program focused on the underlying causes of the eating disorder and the person's relationship with food.
"Supervised meals form a key component, helping people to normalise food intake and eating behaviours and manage eating difficulties in a supportive structure that acclimatises them to potential everyday barriers," Ms Costin said.
"Trained eating disorder clinicians run group sessions that help carers, parents and family members to deal with the difficult aspects of eating disorders."
The program, which she said could extend to other locations, brought a fresh approach to the way eating disorders were perceived in Australia, Ms Costin said.
"Girls I have treated from Australia say they need to manage their illness and that they will always have it," she said. "In Australia right now, if you work in an eating disorder clinic you are not supposed to talk about it ... I think that's problematic. Unless you ever see someone who has recovered, you might not see that it's possible. We always have somebody on the staff who is recovered and can be a role model."
Shoalhaven woman Molly Lasker, who has sought treatment for anorexia nervosa, said the program was great news and she hoped it would be extended to regional areas.
"They need more places in all areas, most of the people who need help do come from rural areas," she said. "I missed out on a third of year 11 and half of year 12 because I was too unwell to do anything. If there was more help in regional areas I wouldn't have got that bad, I wouldn't have missed out on so much school."
The 18-year-old is determined to beat her illness.
The program requires clients to attend three $300 sessions a week. Each session lasts 3½ hours. Email for info: email@example.com.