Plea to Keep New York Breast Cancer Support Program Running

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Readers, please see Maimah Karmo’s post on the proposed shutdown of New York’s Adelphi Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program. Then come back here for my open letter to New York Governor David Paterson.

    Dear Governor Paterson:
    Hey, I know it’s tough being Governor right now. Especially Governor of New York. You’ve got the whole world watching Wall Street, with pink slip parties going on everywhere, from Lehman Brothers to Bear Stearns. And to add insult to injury, the Giants just got booted out of the NFL playoffs, for crying out loud.

    You’ve got a $1.7 billion shortfall to deal with in the current budget. And it’s projected that’ll balloon to $13.7 billion next year, unless you make some tough cuts. “…our state government needs to tighten its belt…” as you say on your Web site.

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    But with Federal bailouts going to banks and car companies and Fannie and Freddie and who knows where else, I’m asking you, please: don’t bail on the Adelphi Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program, a program servicing women dancing with breast cancer—fearing it, needing screening, having been diagnosed—for the past 28 years. The program is funded mainly by donations and energetic fundraising; New York kicks in a $300,000 grant each year. But without that $300,000, program director Hillary Rutter says they may have to shut down.

    And now, you’ve eliminated that $300,000 from your upcoming budget. Hey, I did the math here: in the past 5 years, the program has provided hotline support, counseling, and education to 221,000 women, including over 50,000 underserved women of color, both in the New York metropolitan area, and upstate. During that same timeframe, the program has had 1.5 million hits to its Web site.

    I know, I know. A pretty small program, in the grand scheme of things.

    But then, $300,000 isn’t much money, in the grand scheme of things. It works out to New York having shelled out $6.79 for each woman served. Less than the cost of a cheeseburger at the Wall Street Burger Shoppe in lower Manhattan.

    New York State Health Department spokeswoman Beth Goldberg notes that "Residents of Long Island will be able to get the same high-quality services from the state cancer services phone line." But guess what? The Adelphi hotline is staffed by breast cancer survivors, not health department employees. These survivors work on a volunteer basis, and you know what they can offer callers that state workers simply can’t?

    Just this: “I’ve been there. I know what you’re feeling You’re terrified, confused, sad, angry, hopeful, and lost… all at once. But it’s OK. Trust me, you’ll work through this. Every step you take is another step back to life. I did it; you can, too. Please call back anytime. We’re here for you.”

    And let me give you my 2¢ here, Governor: those words are worth more than $6.79. Much more.

Published On: January 14, 2009