U.P. Breast Health Fund launched by regional health departments, Superior Health Foundation

Beginning January 2, eligible breast cancer patients from across the Upper Peninsula can apply for  grant funding and financial support to help minimize the out-of-pocket expenses.

Medical professionals say financial constraints can cause people with cancer  to  delay medical treatment…and the U.P. Breast Health Fund can help provide for those who most need support for breast-care related bills, biopsies, procedures and ultrasound tests.

At a joint press conference Tuesday morning at the Marquette County Health Department, the Superior Health Foundation and the six county health departments in the Upper Peninsula unveiled the details of the U.P. Breast Health Fund.

Funding for the U.P. Breast Health Fund was made possible with philanthropic dollars raised during the 31 Days of Pink, a partnership involving SHF and the Marquette Area Public Schools (MAPS). Nearly $18,000 was raised during the month-long event, and coupled with more than $10,000 in an existing breast health funds in the SHF, there is more than $28,000 in available funding to help patients all across the U.P. who have exhausted all other financial resources for breast health care.

“From the outset, the Superior Health Foundation’s vision of the 31 Days of Pink was to provide charitable funding to help patients with unmet out-of-pocket health expenses relative to breast health care,” said Jim LaJoie, executive director of the Superior Health Foundation. “We’re thrilled to work with the six health care divisions across the Upper Peninsula to get this program off the ground and running in 2014.”

To be eligible for funding, applicants must be 35 to 64 years of age; fall within the national poverty guidelines; and be underinsured or uninsured. Application forms will be posted on each of the health department websites, along with the Superior Health Foundation website at www.superiorhealthfoundation.org.

“Local health departments across the U.P. are teaming up with the Superior Health Foundation to insure that people in need of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment get the health care they need,” said Fred Benzie, MPH, MPA, RS, health officer/director for the Marquette County Health Department.

Added Nick Derusha, health officer for the LMAS District Health Department (Luce-Mackinac and Alger-Schoolcraft): “LMAS is excited for this opportunity to collaborate with the other U.P. Health Departments and the Superior Health Foundation to raise awareness about the need for women to get breast cancer screenings and to ensure that all of the women in the U.P. have access to any necessary treatment.”

An eight-person review committee will consist of six U.P. Health Department Coordinators, a member of the SHF Community Needs and Grants Committee, and the SHF Executive Director. The maximum award will be $1,000.

To ensure every area of the Upper Peninsula is covered, each division is guaranteed $2,500 in funding.

“Dickinson-Iron District Health Department appreciates the opportunity to partner with the Superior Health Foundation to promote breast health, recognizing that good health is important for all U.P. residents,” said Steve Markham, Director/Health Officer of the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department.

LaJoie said the 2013 31 Days of Pink was a resounding success, with plans to “Paint the Peninsula Pink” already in the works for October 2014. The SHF and MAPS will reach out to other Upper Peninsula high schools to encourage them to participate and raise money for this much-needed cause.

“With everyone working together,” LaJoie said, “the sky is the limit on how much we can raise for the Breast Health Fund. All of us, at some point in our lives, will be touched by breast cancer.”

For more information on the fund, contact Bobbie Champion, BS, of the Marquette County Health Department at 906-315-2620 or email bchampion@mqtco.org.