Brinker: Fund to help displaced Puerto Ricans, others with breast care

January 8, 2018
Palm Beach Daily News 

Palm Beacher and Susan G. Komen founder Nancy Brinker is helping spearhead a new fundraising initiative aimed at connecting cancer care providers with two vulnerable populations in South Florida — people in financial need and those who have moved to Florida from Puerto Rico and other areas following recent hurricanes.

Susan G. Komen and the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties have just established The Promise Fund, Brinker said, with an initial goal of raising $5 million. Brinker, a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, founded the Komen organization to fund breast cancer research and raise awareness about breast health.

The Promise Fund will be administered by the foundation, Brinker said. The idea for it emerged over the past week or so during conversations she had with Julie Fisher Cummings, who is a co-chairwoman of Susan G. Komen’s annual gala fundraiser later this month on a cruise ship at the Port of Palm Beach. Cummings also serves on the board of the Community Foundation.

Brinker and Cummings are hoping to put a dent in the enormity of the health care and social service needs that are accompanying the “mass migration of storm victims” who left Puerto Rico for Florida after Hurricane Maria devastated the island Sept. 20, said Brinker. Since Oct. 3, more than 239,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived in the state, according to a report citing figures from the State Emergency Response Team.

Cummings said the new fund also is designed “to address the inequities in the delivery of health care.”

The money raised will be distributed as grants to organizations that fund so-called health care “navigators.” Those are professionals trained to work within neighborhoods, connecting people who need cancer treatment, breast health screenings and other medical care with service providers, explained Kate Watt, executive director of the Susan G. Komen’s South Florida affiliate.

In an email to the Daily News, Brinker said the money raised “will assist in establishing a network of community-based breast health navigators working on the neighborhood level to navigate patients in high-risk communities. It will provide education, connections to free or reduced care and follow-up (efforts) to ensure the patient is actively involved in treatment. It will also fund health safety-net services that support screening, diagnosis and care for breast health.”

The need is particularly acute for minorities and low-income people, Brinker wrote.

Brinker said she and Cummings realized the foundation could easily administer the fund and, perhaps, begin providing grants in the early spring.

“This is something we can do. This isn’t building a research hospital. This isn’t something that can’t be done,” Brinker said in an interview. “For relatively few dollars, we can change the futures of so many people with (financial) barriers and our new Puerto Rican citizens. We want this fund to grow immediately.”

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