New cancer treatment options in Florida represent bigger shift to centralized care

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Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis has used her role as a breast cancer survivor to advocate for new funding for the state. It started in December 2021, when the First Lady launched a $100 million proposal for cancer treatment as well as research.1 DeSantis has now been cancer-free since March 2022 after undergoing life-saving surgery and radiation therapy.

I find that I am interested in the new program in Florida, called Florida Cancer Connect.2 It has been described as a “one stop shop”2 for patients, and DeSantis calls it a “one-stop website.”3 The goal is to streamline all resources available to cancer patients in Florida under one umbrella. The website will also function as a bridge to connect patients to other patients, families and caregivers. The Florida Cancer Connect website is a joint effort between the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. It should be noted that there were no new financial arrangements between the 2 entities. Instead, the two ministries used the money already in their reserves to participate in this project.

This unique approach gives patients and their families new strategies to prevent cancer. Above all, it will help people who are trying to navigate their health insurance maze. I especially appreciate that FLCancerConnect will have information geared towards patient families, as they can often be overlooked. The site will also have information about those who have survived cancer, providing patients with links to valuable online support systems. DeSantis will also draw on his own experience with cancer to add little touches that will help support patients. She will include information that, in her experience, is often difficult to find. She said in an interview, “If you need to buy a wig, or if you’re looking for other things that might help you with an operation, where do I go? Where do I turn?”2 All of these resources will be available through this website.

A glance at the website reveals a mechanism for locating cancer resources in the state. It also has a section regarding invoices from insurance companies. The Florida Department of Financial Services Insurance Consumer Helpline can be reached toll-free at 1-877-MY-FL-CF (1-877-693-5236) or 1-850-413-3089 if calling from another state. The website also offers a consumer guide to health insurance. An innovative section, called the Letters of Strength page, offers specific tools for cancer survivors and their stories of strength that can be read and used to inspire patients and their families.

Florida isn’t the only state with cancer screening programs. New York State has a Cancer Services Program that provides free cancer screening and diagnostic services to its residents. Meeting certain age and income criteria is also mandatory. These programs offer breast, cervical and colorectal screening services. 1-866-442-CANCER (2262) is the 24/7 toll-free number to connect the resident to these services.3 If screening reveals findings that require further evaluation, there are also diagnostic services and a dedicated case manager to guide the patient through this process. Additionally, in California, the Department of Health Care Services offers free breast and cervical cancer treatment to its residents. Additionally, there are free breast exams, mammograms and pap tests as well as a prostate cancer treatment program called Impact.4

I’m glad to see more states moving toward centralizing resources for cancer patients. I can’t wait to see the impact DeSantis’ project can have on patients living in his condition. As an oncology nurse and social worker, I believe these programs are invaluable and hope to see the trend continue.

References

  1. First Lady Casey DeSantis announces $100 million proposal for cancer research and care in Florida. Florida Gov.com. December 8, 2021. Accessed August 22, 2022. https://bit.ly/3SF9XSr
  2. Troncoso, R. Casey DeSantis comes to Jacksonville to announce a statewide cancer initiative. August 3, 2022. Accessed August 22, 2022. WJCT News. https://bit.ly/3SnYAxT
  3. Cancer Services Program. New York State Department of Health; New York State Cancer Services Program. Updated September 2022. Accessed September 13, 2022. https://on.ny.gov/3qVgpsi
  4. Cancer programs. Department of Health Services. Updated September 2022. Accessed September 13, 2022. https://bit.ly/3S3TM0Z
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