County won't get transportation grant this year for breast cancer patients

For several years, grants from the Puget Sound Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure have helped pay for transportation for island women needing to visit doctors on the mainland for cancer treatment.

But this year, that grant fell victim to increased needs elsewhere as well as the economic slump.

San Juan County Health and Community Services has learned it will not get the grant this year. That’s a loss of about $20,000 to $25,000.

Specifically, the program is the Breast Cancer Treatment Support Mission Project, which provides island women with assistance in the form of transportation resource referral, travel support, and reimbursement for air and ferry travel costs related to breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. The project collaborates with volunteer air and ground transportation programs and provides additional resources for clients and outreach to outer islands.

“We had more grant requests than we were able to fund -- $2.3 million in grants, a 30 percent increase over 2008,” said Cherie Skager, the affilate’s director of grants and education. The affiliate awarded $1.8 million in 2008.

The Puget Sound Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure offers grant funding to local organizations that meet breast health and breast cancer needs in the 16-county region. The grants serve medically underserved, uninsured and under-insured low-income rural women, as well as Asian, African American, American Indian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, lesbian and bisexual women.

Skager said the emphasis of this year’s grants is preventive care and care for women who are underinsured and uninsured. “The need is great,” Skager said. For example, the Washington Breast and Cervical Health Program provides no-cost services and has seen a 60 percent increase in number of clients over the last two years – the possible result, Skager said, of an increase in the number of women who have lost jobs and insurance coverage in this tough economy.

“We have to make some very difficult decisions,” Skager said of the grant process. “(San Juan) does some phenomenal work and we do hope they will apply again next year. By all means, San Juan County is on our radar.”

The affiliate funded other programs that benefit San Juan County women. Among them:

-- Washington Department of Health’s Komen Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnostic Fund: The Washington Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to women ages 40-64, whose incomes are at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level and are uninsured or underinsured. This grant allows the program to expand its screening capacity so that an additional 2,488 women who live in the Puget Sound service area may be screened and have access to diagnostic procedures if needed.

-- Washington Department of Health’s Safeway-Komen Breast Cancer Screening Fund: Funding from Safeway will allow for an additional 462 Hispanic women living in the Puget Sound service area to access screening mammography.

-- Asian Women’s Breast Cancer Prevention Project: The Asian Women’s Breast Cancer Prevention Project is increasing awareness of breast cancer and the importance of mammography screening in the Asian American community, and providing access to breast cancer screening through educational workshops, one-on-one outreach, health fairs, and breast cancer screenings. A minimum of 350 women will be served, and a minimum of 50 women will receive breast cancer screening.

-- Franciscan Foundation Breast Cancer Navigator Program: The goal of the Breast Cancer Navigator Program is to increase medically underserved minority women’s survival of breast cancer by improving access to early screening, diagnosis and treatment. Female "navigators" who share women’s own culture, race, ethnicity and language educate women about breast cancer and the need for screening and help them receive mammograms. Women diagnosed with breast cancer receive one-on-one medical navigation, helping them to connect to culturally competent, high-quality treatment and access practical and emotional support in managing the disease. The program will serve more than 3,000 women.

-- HealthPoint Breast Cancer Patient Navigation and Case Management: The purpose of HealthPoint’s Breast Cancer Case Management Program is to ensure that patients have the necessary supportive services and assistance with systems navigation to complete their treatment plan. The program will provide one-on-one crisis intervention; navigation support to access program and groups; and psychosocial assessment and treatment to support women in successfully completing breast cancer treatment. This program will serve 65 breast cancer patients.

-- Cancer Lifeline’s Komen Patient Assistance Program: Cancer Lifeline administers the Komen Patient Assistance Fund to help low-income breast cancer patients with the costs of daily living while they are in treatment. This fund is available in all 16 counties of the Puget Sound service area and will provide assistance to more than 550 patients.

For more information on how to connect with these and other programs, visit

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