New fund to bring cancer screening to the uninsured

By Mary Teresa Bitti

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Melissa St. Clair is no stranger to rolling up her sleeves and pitching in, particularly when it comes to helping out in her community.

So when she got the call in June from Pat Wilson at the Onslow County Health Department, she was all in.

The Centers for Disease Control had announced it would cut funding for the breast-and-cervical-cancer control-prevention program the health department managed locally.

The result would mean under-insured and uninsured women would lose access to preventive health screening.

It was a repeat of a situation in 2003. But at that time, neighboring New Hanover County stepped in to provide the services of their mobile mammogram screening unit to the women of Onslow County.

The van still makes monthly visits to Onslow, with clients booked three months in advance.

In 2007, the New Hanover County van screened 168 women.

“But their generosity can only go so far, and in the spring they are going to have to cut that back to every other month,” says St. Clair.

She hopes either to raise money to show a good-faith effort toward continuing monthly screenings with the van, or to issue vouchers for women who qualify for a visit.

Since it was launched in June 2007, the Onslow Women’s Health Fund, located in Jacksonville, already has hosted a yard sale and craft fair and taken part in the Passion in Pink event at Jacksonville Mall, raising a total of $2,300 for the women of Onslow County.

The Fund’s committee members also have reached out to the Onslow County Council for Women, which will make a $500 contribution.

“We’ve hit the ground running in terms of fund-raising,” says St. Clair, who is a committee member. “Now we have to meet again to get the formalities in place, the bylaws and a formal advisory committee and get more hands and pocketbooks at the table.”

The Fund is administered by the North Carolina Community Foundation and consists of five women.

All money raised will be in support of under-insured or uninsured women in Onslow County, but it may also be open to women from other counties referred through the Onslow County Health Department.

The fund aims to make its first grants in July of next year.

“Our goal is to provide access to preventative health care for women,” says St. Clair. “Right now our focus is breast health because that is where the gap is. As our fund builds and other health needs are identified, we will broaden our mandate.”

For information, contact Melissa St. Clair at 910-938-8823

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