This October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we reflect on our efforts to reduce the breast cancer burden nationwide and continue our commitment to fighting the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States.
Nevada’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Program Finally Funded by State
As the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (BCCEDP), the Nevada Women’s Health Connection (WHC) provides low-income, uninsured and underinsured women access to breast and cervical cancer prevention and early detection services. Nearly every fiscal year, WHC had to turn eligible women away from the program due to a lack of funding, ultimately denying them access to timely and appropriate cancer screening and early detection services. Unfortunately, the state’s failure to allocate funding for WHC was not unusual. Nevada has been ranked 50th in appropriating state funds to support public health programs, failing to invest in cancer control and prevention programs, as well as other chronic disease programs.
Without any state funding, the WHC program operated for the past 20 years solely relying on federal funding – from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and private donations.
In an effort to advance our advocacy efforts, ACS CAN’s Nevada team convened diverse stakeholders at breast cancer roundtables held throughout the state including cancer control leadership, health systems partners, legislators and others to address known barriers to breast and cervical cancer screening, diagnostic testing and treatment services. A constant theme throughout these discussions was securing state appropriations that would support and broaden the reach of the WHC program.
In 2017, after years of tireless efforts by our volunteers and staff, it all culminated during ACS CAN’s Cancer Day at the Capitol – which focused on securing state funding for WHC. Encouraged by the leadership of Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, who sponsored the breast cancer funding legislation, ACS CAN volunteers and a number of breast cancer survivors met with their state legislators imploring them to support the legislation that would provide the first state funding for the WHC program.
On the last days of the legislative session, the Senate and Assembly unanimously passed legislation, resulting in $1 million dollar in state funds to support the WHC program for the FY 2018-2019 biennial budget. As a result of this action, thousands of additional Nevada women will gain access to a broad range of lifesaving breast and cervical cancer services, including screenings, diagnostic testing and patient navigation services.
I’m sincerely proud of our efforts in Nevada because this legislation can save countless lives from breast cancer.