Tuesday, Feb 14, 2023

The American Cancer Society Awards $20,000 Lodging Grant to Ballad Health

The American Cancer Society recently awarded a $20,000 lodging grant to Ballad Health to alleviate the financial burden of lodging costs for patients with cancer.

The grant, awarded under Mountain States Health Alliance as one of Ballad Health’s predecessor organizations, is one of 90 nationwide lodging grants totaling more than $3.3 million awarded by the American Cancer Society in 2022. Based on assistance provided through previous grant funding, these grants will provide more than 9,000 nights of free lodging for patients across the United States.

For patients with cancer, lodging expenses can present a significant financial barrier if the most effective treatment requires traveling from home. Many people need daily or weekly treatment, often for several months.

As many Ballad Health patients live in rural and remote areas of the Appalachian Highlands, traveling to receive cancer treatment – which often takes place five days a week for several weeks or months – also necessitates finding temporary, affordable housing near cancer treatment centers. The cost of that housing, though, can quickly become overwhelming.

"A large percentage of people who live in poverty in our region will forego treatment if they lack the necessary financial assistance," said Tony Dotson, Ballad Health's vice president of oncology services. "Ballad Health’s financial assistance programs help ensure life-saving treatment is available to anyone, of any walk of life, regardless of their ability to pay. This ACS lodging grant will complement other Ballad Health programs, help us continue to close this gap in access and help defray the expenses of traveling for care so all patients, regardless of income, can receive necessary treatments."

Travel and housing costs can also become higher if patients are referred outside of the Appalachian Highlands to highly specialized treatment centers Ballad Health regularly works with. Of those patients, Dotson said estimates within the health system show at least 100 patients each year need lodging assistance, which could be supported through the American Cancer Society grant.

Ballad Health has long worked to address access barriers and inequities, operating a Cancer Navigator Program, which is a free service designed to guide patients and their families by connecting them with navigators and social workers who answer their questions, offer emotional support and coordinate appointments.

Now, with the grant funds, Ballad Health navigators can assist more patients by identifying lodging assistance, booking reservations and ensuring all reimbursements are appropriately handled. The grant also works hand in hand with the health system’s existing Cancer Patient Assistance Fund, which helps some patients meet needs not covered by insurance, such as medications, groceries, personal care items, gas, housing and utilities. The fund is made possible through donations by members of the community and Ballad Health team members, who contribute amounts throughout the year.

"Between 2019 and 2022, we provided almost $500,000 in patient assistance, with $131,854 of that total spend on gas cards and transportation," Dotson said. "We sought out this grant from the American Cancer Society to help our patients also better access the appropriate lodging they need during their cancer journey."

Patients with cancer who qualify can also enroll in the Appalachian Highlands Care Network, an initiative by Ballad Health in partnership with Project Access and a network of regional providers to bridge care gaps, improve health and reduce avoidable hospitalization and emergency department visits. The program includes care coordination and care management to increase healthcare access for low-income uninsured individuals. The program provides access to primary and specialty care services, diagnostics and navigation to social assistance services – such as agencies that support housing, transportation and food needs.

"The financial burden of cancer treatment directly contributes to disparities in cancer outcomes," said Dr. Kathy Goss, regional vice president of cancer support for the American Cancer Society. "We're working to increase access and remove barriers to timely, high-quality cancer care. Providing these grants directly to local health systems and partners allows us to assist patients when and where needed most.”

To learn more about the American Cancer Society’s transportation grant awarded to Ballad Health, please contact Rebecca Jenkins, OPN-CG, lead community navigator for Ballad Health’s cancer care, at rebecca.jenkins@balladhealth.org or 423-783-6408.

More information about Ballad Health's cancer care services, treatment options and locations is available at https://www.balladhealth.org/medical-services/cancer-care, and gifts to the Cancer Patient Assistance Fund can be made by visiting www.balladhealth.org/foundation.