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$10,000 Transportation Grant to SRH Cancer Care Center

The American Cancer Society has awarded the Skagit Regional Health (SRH) Cancer Care Center a $10,000 transportation grant to benefit patients facing challenges getting to and from their cancer treatments.

The Cancer Care Center provides compassionate medical care for members of our communities experiencing cancer, but the level of concern for our patients doesn’t stop at their physical health.

Patients in cancer care waiting room

There are well-known challenges to receiving cancer care – the physical effects of receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatment, the financial cost, let alone the concern of longevity and hope for healing. One additional challenge that may not be considered, however, is transportation – ensuring patients can make it to their appointments, especially if they don’t live nearby.

Peter Wold, MSW, LACSW, OSW-C is the Oncology Patient Support Services and Accreditation Manager at the Skagit Regional Health Cancer Care Center. He is aware of the transportation challenges that several of our patients face and has worked for years to improve this part of receiving treatment.

“For years, prior to COVID-19, the American Cancer Society (ACS) offered a volunteer driver program which provided patients rides to oncology appointments,” said Wold. “Annually, we had 850-900 rides provided for patients at no cost.”

These rides to appointments ceased during the pandemic, and in its place the American Cancer Society created transportation grants to assist with the need for transportation that remained, despite COVID-19.

Wold first learned of the grant in 2021 and submitted an application, receiving $5,000 for that year. Those funds were used within the first six months. Given how quickly the funds were accessed, the American Cancer Society encouraged Wold to apply again in 2022.

“I submitted the application for $10,000, electing to request the increased amount given the challenges our large geographic catchment area poses to patients,” said Wold. On September 7, 2022, Wold received word that Skagit Regional Health had been awarded the $10,000.

These transportation grants provide transportation assistance for cancer patients where transportation has been identified as a barrier to care. Funds may be used for medical taxis, regular taxis, bus fare, ferry tickets, gas cards or train tickets, depending on the specific needs and locations of the patients as well as the location of the treatment needed.

“The American Cancer Society recognized our unique and large geographic patient catchment area, the high cost of transportation, and the persistent barrier to care transportation has become over time for our patient population,” said Wold.

Some Skagit Regional Health cancer patients have an especially unique barrier to care related to transportation – as they receive cancer care in a different county than where they reside.

For patients who receive care within the county they live in, door-to-door transportation support is available through a patient’s local community bus service. Local examples include Dial-A-Ride (Skagit Transit), DART (Community Transit of Snohomish/Island County) or PARATRANSIT (Whatcom Transit Authority). However, these programs cannot cross county lines. For Skagit Regional Health patients receiving their medical oncology care in Smokey Point (Snohomish County) who have been referred for daily radiation therapy at the SRH Cancer Care Center in Mount Vernon (Skagit County), local transportation support is not available.

The American Cancer Society Transportation Grant fills this gap in transportation support, and now, patients in Smokey Point and Arlington who are receiving therapy in Mount Vernon are relieved of the costs of overcoming transportation barriers to continue their care.

“A round trip taxi ride for patients in the Arlington area coming to Mount Vernon was approximately $250-$300; this cost was about the same for our patients residing on Camano Island or Whidbey Island,” said Wold. “The cost was unaffordable to patients, not covered by their medical insurance, so the trips were secured with the ACS Transportation Grant funds, preventing any disruption in care.”

When patients benefit from support like this, Skagit Regional Health can continue to partner well with them as they walk through their cancer care journey.

“SRH benefits from the patients maintaining active engagement in their care and it prevents ‘no-show’ appointments,” said Wold. Wold went on to say that having funds available to address this specific barrier “communicates to our patients and communities that we are invested in ensuring that the patients receive the care they need – and we are willing to pursue resources and supports on their behalf.”

Advocating to support and address the barriers our patients may face as they receive treatment is one reason why Skagit Regional Health is known for compassionate cancer care.

“We were able to support a patient who was essentially homeless, had a non-functional vehicle and significant disease upon presentation,” said Wold. “We were able to support the patient with transportation assistance to both Smokey Point and Mount Vernon throughout the critical components of his treatment regimen.”

This grant is not the full extent of SRH’s relationship with the American Cancer Society. Wold added that through our long-standing, established relationship with them, their Senior Manager of Cancer Support Strategic Partnerships participates quarterly in Skagit Regional Health’s Cancer Committee meetings to discuss current resources and support available locally for cancer patients.

The staff and providers at the SRH Cancer Care Center provide robust and compassionate care, helping patients access to their care without barriers to the fullest extent available. Now, with funds to reduce barriers to transportation, it feels closer to home than ever.

Click here for more information about cancer care with Skagit Regional Health or call 360-814-2146.