Susan G. Komen® Michigan Grants $195,030 to Spectrum Health to Help Breast Cancer Patients Who Have Significant Access Barriers to Care

Susan G. Komen® Michigan Grants $195,030 to Spectrum Health to Help Breast Cancer Patients Who Have Significant Access Barriers to Care

Susan G. Komen Michigan announced today the award of $195,030 Spectrum Health to fund their emerging “High Risk Breast Health Navigation” program.  Komen and Walgreens are hoping to reduce breast cancer deaths in 16 cities and a dozen states with $3 million in new grants for patient navigation programs aimed at medically under-served and vulnerable people facing breast cancer.  The new grants support Komen’s National Patient Navigation Program, which aims to connect patients who have received abnormal breast imaging results with specially trained navigators that can guide them through and around the barriers in the complex cancer care system to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment.

Navigation programs are associated with improved breast cancer survival rates, and may be especially helpful for medically underserved women who lack insurance or adequate resources to see themselves through treatment.

“More than 230,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and each will face difficult decisions about treatment, finances, family, work and so much more,” said Komen President and CEO Judith Salerno, M.D., M.S. “The patient navigation services funded by Walgreens and its customers help ensure that women receive the care they need by linking them with support and resources, and empowering them throughout their breast cancer journey.”

Spectrum Health’s High Risk Breast Health Navigation Program plans to serve 693 uninsured or under-insured patients in West Michigan over the next 2 years (from May 1, 2015 through January 30, 2017).  The program has many different facets including: the rollout of four breast health-specific outreach events; creation of a process for identifying patients with access barriers; coordination of services with the existing Breast Cancer High Risk Clinic; and delivery of patient education regarding the diagnostic process, including biopsies and treatment.  Eligible patients that receive an abnormal screening result will receive information regarding financial and community resources, help with appropriate referrals, coordination of appointments for diagnostic testing with a goal of “same day” appointments and biopsy results within one business day.  Additionally, the funds will be used to hire and train staff to provide emotional support that is sensitive to cultural differences and includes culturally-competent educational materials and translation services.

“We are very excited about what this program will mean to our most at risk populations and our ability to provide care for people at all phases of their breast cancer journey” said Jennifer Jurgens, breast cancer

survivor and executive director of Komen Michigan.  “Imagine getting an abnormal result on your annual mammogram.  Now imagine that you’re new to the community, English is not your first language and you haven’t signed up for The Healthy Michigan Plan or you have commercial insurance but the deductible is over $5,000.  These are real scenarios in West Michigan.  People with access barriers such as language, cultural biases against certain types of medical care or ‘female’ cancers, fear of doctors and/or complex health systems will be served by this program.  This means more people will get the care they need to survive breast cancer and thrive beyond it.”

“Our Betty Ford Breast Health Center and now our High Risk Breast Health Clinic are positioned to better help people in West Michigan that are facing a possible breast cancer diagnosis,” added Dr. Judy Smith, chief, Spectrum Health Cancer Center.  “We have three primary goals for this program:  removing access barriers for patients with abnormal findings, navigating them through their breast cancer journey with help that is culturally competent, and providing timely, if not same day, results to women in the program.  We have been working on this type of programming and now, thanks in part to Susan G. Komen, we’re able to formalize and expand it to meet the community need.”

This grant is in addition to funding that Spectrum Health currently receives from Komen Michigan to enhance their community model of breast care service delivery which includes outreach, education, screening (including mobile services) and diagnostic services.  The new High Risk program will complement existing programs, further ensuring that Spectrum Health will be able to continue their breast care programs for the under-served.

The national program is supported by more than $2 million in funds raised by Walgreens and Walgreens’ customers during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October 2013. Over the last four years, the Walgreens’ program has raised more than $19 million.

A cancer diagnosis is life changing and can be overwhelming.  The navigator program assists in those critical first steps in accessing treatment to beat breast cancer.  Walgreens would like to thank our customers for making this program possible,” said John Gremer, director of community affairs for Walgreens. 

For more information on breast health resources available in West Michigan, contact Megan Smith, Mission Director for Susan G. Komen Michigan. at 616-752-8262 x2016.