Daughter dies from eating disorder, parents hold annual conference in her honor

CORNING, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - Treating an eating disorder is difficult enough. Throwing substance abuse on top of that can present additional problems.

Co-occurring disorders was the focus of the 18th annual Erin Leah Robarge Memorial Seminar on Thursday at the Radisson Hotel in Corning. 

Andrew and Barbara Hale-Seubert helped create the conference to prevent other parents from going through what they did.

Their daughter, Erin, who Barbara wrote a book about, died in the year 2000 at the age of 23 after more than a decade-long struggle with anorexia and bulimia.

"When donations came in in memory of her, we thought 'What do we want to do to make her death somehow meaningful and have something positive come out of our experience and her short life?'" Barbara said. 

They teamed up with Erin's nutritionist to bring the annual conference to fruition and educate clinicians and family members on expanding their knowledge base on eating disorders and how to provide support. 

"It killed Erin and it's killed others and there just needs to be so much education and that's what we set out to do," Andrew, Erin's stepfather, said. 

Although Erin did not struggle with substance abuse as well, the conference covers a different aspect of eating disorders every year. 

This year focused on how patients with co-occurring disorders, like a dual diagnoses of an eating disorder and substance abuse, are sometimes treated separately because some clinicians are trained in one area but don't feel comfortable treating the other. 

"There's no real training program for that combination although there's a huge overlap in people with addictions and eating disorders," Dr. Kim Dennis, CEO and cofounder of SunCloud Health, said. "Up to 50 percent of people with eating disorders will have an addiction and few eating disorder professionals have any addiction training and vice versa."

Keynote speakers shared information with the crowd exploring the role of the brain, genetics, trauma exposure, and cultural and environmental influences, and how clinicians can effectively treat patients at all levels of care. 

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