Organizations: The Manna Fund

When she was a teenager, Grace Hicks resigned herself to a foreshortened lifetime of “staying sick.” She had received treatment for a six-year bout with anorexia but still struggled with the eating disorder, and her medical bills had depleted her family’s savings.

Then the Manna Fund – true to its miraculous name – appeared and underwrote two months of inpatient treatment for the Law-renceville woman.

A Place at the Table: “I’m so happy!” says Hicks, now 21, with the sound of surf in the background. She is calling from the beach, where she and her new husband are enjoying their honeymoon. “I go for several days now completely forgetting that I even had an eating disorder. I never thought I would ever feel this way.”

Insurance providers routinely deny coverage for these conditions. So Dr. Genie Burnett, a psychologist specializing in eating disorders and a survivor herself, established The Manna Scholarship Fund, a Suwanee-based nonprofit, in 2007 to “fill the funding gap” for uninsured or underinsured individuals in need of the most immediate and critical level of care, usually involving a residential or inpatient program of two or three months.

Feeding Body and Spirit: “Eating disorders are addictions that are among the most life-threatening and toughest to treat because we all must deal with food multiple times a day,” Burnett says, citing anorexia, bulimia, obesity and binge eating as examples. “In addition to medical care, treatment requires teasing apart a complicated belief system about the body, food and interpersonal relationships, and often there is a history of physical or sexual abuse with the patient.”

Without help, up to 20 percent of patients will die from a serious disorder, but the numbers drop to two or three percent with proper intervention. So far, the Manna Fund, partnering with 10 treatment facilities, has supported the recovery of 10 patients. The organization also works with the Girl Scouts in prevention programs, and it is developing an app as a diagnostic tool and referral resource. The Manna Fund is supported by donations, grants and benefits. (Former UGA Head Coach Vince Dooley was honorary chairman of a recent golf tourney.)

Feeling Full: “So much of an eating disorder is psychological, and I felt tremendous guilt for costing my parents so much money,” says Hicks, who is working toward a psychology degree. “The Manna Fund removed that burden from us so I could focus on getting better without that additional financial worry. Now I want to help other people the way I’ve been helped.”

Categories: Organizations