State Budget Crisis Requires Leadership
Twenty years ago, we celebrated a tremendous victory in our effort to ensure access to vital breast health services for women in need. Today, as that victory is facing its toughest challenge to date, our leadership is needed again.
With the launch of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, women who were falling through the cracks of our health care system and needed help were finally receiving it. It was a momentous, and truly life-saving, achievement.
Since that day, the entire Susan G. Komen for the Cure family has worked tirelessly to educate women in need about this program and to push policymakers to increase their investments so we could reach all women in need. At the same time, we’ve looked for ways to expand access through our community grants and collaboration with providers. The screening program also gave us the opportunity to invest in other important programs to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the breast health system.
Now, with economic conditions that are straining every state budget, everything we have fought for and everything we have accomplished is at risk.
How big is the problem? Three out of every four states are facing budget holes that range between 5 percent of their total budget, to more than half! That means every program, no matter its worth, is at risk of being cut or eliminated – this includes breast cancer screening and treatment programs. Once believed impossible, this threat is real.
Our experience in California last year, where the screening program was shut down for several months, teaches us that breast cancer screening is not untouchable. Yet as the program was restored last fall, and was preserved in the Governor’s new budget proposal, the California example also teaches us that our voice can be formidable.
We must be vigilant, and not assume any state is safe. Just consider Washington State where Governor Gregoire, herself a breast cancer survivor, proposed a 25% cut in the program, which would zero out state funding for the remainder of the Fiscal Year and reduce access to 5,000 women.
We understand the difficult choices that elected officials are facing. Yet, we also see firsthand the importance of this program – it is there to ensure a lost job and lost insurance doesn’t mean a lost life. These women are our mothers and our sisters; our friends and our neighbors. And they don’t disappear just because the state stops screening them, and neither does their cancer – it just grows undetected.
In Washington State, we’ve already begun to make our voices heard and the initial results are encouraging. Yet Washington is just the first of many states where the Komen family may have to answer the call.
We need your help. We need you to raise your voice and let your elected leaders know how important this program is and that it is imperative that the program’s funding be preserved.
Please contact your local Affiliate to see how you can help. Find your local Affiliate here.
About the author
Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker founded Susan G. Komen on a promise she made to her sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer. She led a relentless breast cancer information and awareness campaign and succeeded in breaching the silence surrounding the disease, fundamentally changing the way it is talked about and treated. She started the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® and also pioneered cause-related marketing, both of which have had a profound impact on the breast cancer movement. An outspoken champion of all people with breast cancer as well as those who are at risk for developing the disease, Ambassador Brinker takes her cause and her passion all over the world, seeking the fresh input and international partnerships essential to ending breast cancer forever. Among her many leadership roles, Brinker served as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary from 2001-2003 and as U.S. Chief of Protocol from 2007-2009.