AUSTIN — Dorothy Gibbons’ says without grant funding from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, uninsured and underinsured women in the 38-county region her non-profit serves wouldn’t have access to much needed screenings.
“We’re screening women in so many different counties that never had mammography services before,”
Gibbons said. “We’re finding cancers that would not have been found without CPRIT funding. It allows us to keep going back. Cancer and prevention screenings – it’s not a one-time thing. You have to keep going back. You have to keep showing up so that the folks trust you and know that you’re going to be back again and you’re going to take them all the way through.”
Gibbons’ non-profit, The Rose, has been a CPRIT grantee since 2010. Since then, it’s caught breast cancer in more than 300 women and provided more than 5,000 first-time mammograms. A 3-D mammogram can cost around $225 and a biopsy could cost almost $2,000, according to Gibbons.
Women are recommended to get screenings once they’re 40 years old, but those who are uninsured or underinsured sometimes have to make a sacrifice.
“It’s really hard for anyone to justify a preventative screening when you don’t have the money for rent, groceries and you’re worried about your kid going to school,” Gibbons said.
The American Cancer Society Action Network of Texas hosted a forum Tuesday in Austin highlighting the ongoing prevention projects, like The Hope’s screenings, taking place statewide.
“The grantees have done a lot of work to improve their healthcare systems, the delivery of their preventative services,” Dr. Rebecca Garcia, chief prevention and communications officer of CPRIT, said. “They’ve trained a lot of people in terms of community health workers and other professionals.”
But CPRIT is scheduled to lose funding beginning in 2020, unless the Texas Legislature acts next year and some lawmakers have pushed for the agency to be self-sufficient once state funding runs out.
“It is still going to be a challenge because it’s a lot of money and there’s no real clarity whether this program was intended to continue indefinitely or not,” ACS CAN Texas Senior Government Relations Director Cam Scott said.
Gibbons also presented a letter that a Hurricane Harvey survivor shared after getting help from The Rose.
“She had lost her home to Harvey,” Gibbons said. “She’d lost her car. The year before she’d lost her daughter to another cancer.”
Stories like this are what Gibbons hopes sticks with lawmakers and healthcare advocates as they continue conversations about CPRIT’s funding and future.