Free breast health services available to women

by Jill L. Fries, Marquette County Health Department

The recent 31 Days of Pink fundraising campaign helped support the U.P. Breast Health Fund through local health departments. (Courtesy of Marquette County Health Department)

The recent 31 Days of Pink fundraising campaign helped support the U.P. Breast Health Fund through local health departments. (Courtesy of Marquette County Health Department)

The face of health care is changing, and how preventative services are delivered to our most economically challenged individuals has had to change as well to meet the enormous need in our community.

To address this change, the Superior Health Foundation has begun a collaboration process with local health departments across the Upper Peninsula to assist individuals who have exhausted all other financial resources for breast health care. SHF is working with the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program to help people who may not have access to the BCCCP or have bills above and beyond the assistance of the program.

The BCCCP is a life-saving program administered by health departments across the Upper Peninsula, but it does not always have the financial resources to cover all recommended diagnostic services. This collaboration will assist in that endeavor.

Almost thirty years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set aside funding for screening for breast and cervical cancer. The premise was that early detection would save lives.

The cost of treatment and care of those diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer in the early stages is reduced significantly and has a significantly better outcome. This is a “win-win” situation: Save lives and reduce the cost of treatment.

Thirty years later, the funding for the BCCCP has experienced significant reductions because of national and state budget deficits and economic melt-downs. Unfortunately, the result is funding for these life-saving screening services has been significantly reduced and, for some age groups, eliminated altogether.

Staff at the Marquette County Health Department have looked for other revenue sources to address this gap. In June, Nate Noble of Gentz’s Golf Club hosted the annual fund-raiser “Breast of Friends Golf Outing.”

BCCCP clinic staff participated in the event and despite the very cold, damp day, the event raised $7,053.00.  The funds were solely earmarked for individuals enrolled in the BCCCP, who need breast diagnostic testing not covered by the program.

This past August, Jim LaJoie, executive director of the Superior Health Foundation, approached Fred Benzie, health officer of the Marquette County Health Department, with a vision of a Breast Health Fund. The vision for this Breast Health Fund is a good fit for the local health departments to partner with because public health is at the forefront of serving medical consumers who are financially challenged.

It has been a huge frustration for a medical practitioner to recommend a particular breast diagnostic test only to have the client refuse because of inability to pay, and no other financial resources exist for a public health medical provider to access.

Thus began the conversation between SHF and the local health departments across the Upper Peninsula. The mission of the SHF is to improve health care in the greater Marquette area and the underserved of the Upper Peninsula. That mission includes supporting the unmet health care needs of the indigent and uninsured; health care education programs; supporting programs and research with the primary purpose of preventing and reducing illness and disease; and other programs to promote the health, education and welfare of the community.

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.

Currently there is more than $28,000.00 available in the Breast Health Fund to help patients all across the U.P. who have exhausted all other financial resources for breast health care. This is a great start in meeting this particular gap in medical coverage. We hope this is the beginning of a continued collaborative effort between the private and public sector.

The fund will be available beginning January 2 and the BCCCP coordinators in each of the local health jurisdictions across the Upper Peninsula will be trained in how to access the fund on behalf of eligible clients. The Breast Health Fund is available for those thirty-five to sixty-four years old, with income that falls within 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and who have exhausted all financial means to pay for necessary breast health care. If you believe you qualify, please contact the local health department in your county for assistance in applying to the Breast Health Fund.

The BCCCP provides the following services for women fifty to sixty-four who meet income guidelines, listed below (there are a very limited number of slots for women ages forty to forty-nine, but please call to inquire):

• Clinical breast exams

• Mammograms

• Pelvic exams

• Pap tests

• Follow-up colposcopy

• Breast consultation

There is no cost to clients for these services, and benefits include care coordination assistance, education and explanation of procedures and results, and notification of results or follow-up with a clinical professional.

As you look at the New Year spread before you, make certain you make time to take care of yourself and seek out these life-saving screening services. BCCCP is available through local health departments throughout the Upper Peninsula, whose contact information is to the right.

May 2014 be a healthy year for all.

– Jill L. Fries, Marquette County Health Department


Income Guidelines for BCCCP

Family Size / Income Level

1 – $28,725

2 – $38,775

3 – $48,825

4 – $58,875

5 – $68,925

6 – $78,975

7 – $89,025

8 – $99,075

Each Additional Member Beyond 8 Add $10,050


Contact U.P. Health Departments For More Information

Alger County
LMAS District Health Department
387-2297, X105

Baraga County
Western U.P. Health Department
524-6142

Chippewa County
Chippewa County Health Department
635-1564

Delta County
Public Health, Delta-Menominee
786-4111

Dickinson County
Dickinson-Iron Health Department
774-1868

Gogebic County
Western U.P. Health Department
667-0200

Houghton County
Western U.P. Health Department
482-7382

Iron County
Dickinson-Iron Health Department
265-9913

Keweenaw County
Western U.P. Health Department
482-7382

Luce County
LMAS District Health Department
293-5109, X324

Mackinac County
LMAS District Health Department
643-1100, X117

Marquette County
Marquette County Health Department
475-7844

Menominee County
Public Health, Delta-Menominee
863-4451

Ontonagon County
Western U.P. Health Department
884-4096

Schoolcraft County
LMAS District Health Department
341-6951, X102

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