The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is ending its Eating Disorder Program’s inpatient care this fall.

The program provides intensive residential treatment for individuals 16 and older managing a severe eating disorder. Hospital officials say they’re redistributing funding to take on the growing numbers of Iowans with acute mental health care needs.

Twenty-two-year-old April Bannister is currently in the program and will be among the last participants. “It leaves me in a pretty precarious position, but I might have the partial program,” Bannister says. “If nothing else, I will have my outpatient team, and honestly, I’m one of the lucky ones that I have two people who are specialized in eating disorders.”

Bannister has anorexia, an eating disorder characterized by unhealthily low body weight and a fear of gaining weight. During dangerous episodes, she has been admitted to the hospital for monitoring. Most recently in July, her therapist confronted her about being severely underweight. That day, she committed Bannister to her seventh hospital stay.

Bannister is stunned the program is being discontinued. “It’s terrifying quite honestly. This program, while it has its issues, does save lives,” she says. “It has saved my life on more than one occasion and it’s saved my life seven times, each time that I’ve been admitted.”

A spokesperson for the UIHC says the decision to end the program was not made lightly, and a range of services for people with eating disorders will continue, including intensive partial hospitalization and other outpatient programming.

(By Zachary Oren Smith, Iowa Public Radio)