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UNC Opens Southeast's First Comprehensive Care Eating Disorders Clinic

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It is estimated that up to 10 percent of people have some form of disordered eating.

Some find help through their doctor, therapist or outpatient programs. The sickest patients, who needed inpatient care, had to leave the state or do without treatment.

The Triangle is now home to one of the premiere eating disorder programs in the country. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's eating disorder program breaks new ground for treating the disease.

For Jennifer McLamb the program shows how far she has come. She struggled with anorexia for nine years, dropping from 135 pounds to a life-threatening 90 pounds.

"It wasn't even about weight. It was that I could do it," McLamb said.

Even when she realized she needed help, McLamb said it was hard to find.

"I went from New York to Florida to South Carolina -- everywhere trying to find help," she said.

McLamb and her mother were the driving force behind the inpatient program at UNC.

The 10-bed inpatient unit opened Sept. 1 on the fifth floor of the N.C. Neurosciences Hospital on the campus of the UNC-Chapel Hill.

Patients can get comprehensive care from psychiatrists, therapists, dietitians and other healthcare professionals.

McLamb hopes the inpatient unit will help others avoid the struggles she endured.

"It's amazing -- one door and so many different components on the other side of that door," she said.

Director Cynthia Bulik said programs like this are desperately needed in the Southeast.

"When you go north, the closest inpatient program you have is Baltimore. You have to go all the way from Florida to Louisiana to find an inpatient program in the South," she said.

McLamb is proof that comprehensive programs work. It took a long time to break free from anorexia, but she did it.

"I reclaimed my life. The sense of freedom that I have is something I never thought I could have before," McLamb said.

McLamb went back to college, earned her master's degree and is now a social worker in eastern North Carolina.

The program will also include a research component which looks into the causes of eating disorders and better treatments.

Patients must meet specific clinical guidelines to be eligible for admission into the program and must be referred through their physician.

Anyone interested in being evaluated for admission, or family members seeking an evaluation for a loved one, should call UNC HealthLink at (919) 966-7890.