Patient and Family Assistance Program Offers Help to Struggling Patients

Support_cancer_researchCancer does not wait for financial stability. For many, the disease creates an enormous financial burden, putting day to day costs into question. How will I travel to my treatment? How will I put food on tonight’s table? How will I pay my bills? Some patients skip visits, others can’t pay for dinner. When facing a cancer diagnosis, a patient should not find basic financial needs in competition with their access to treatment.

Dana-Farber’s Patient and Family Assistance Program (PFAP) aims to ease the financial burden for families, so they can focus on their cancer care. Deb Toffler, director of Patient and Family Programs and Services, says PFAP was started to support patients facing the immediate financial burden of a cancer diagnosis.

“The program is designed to help patients access their care until they are able to find resources in their community to sustain them long-term,” said Toffler.

The program’s goal is to assist lower income patients, ensuring that daily finances do not immediately prohibit their treatment. Through the disbursement of up to $250 in gas and grocery gift cards, PFAP works to help patients pay for care by easing competing financial priorities. Through PFAP, Toffler and her team work to ensure that grocery bills and transportation to Dana-Farber do not prevent patients from receiving immediate treatment.

“Our goal is to break down many of the financial barriers that cancer patients and families face and provide access to essential resources,” said Toffler.

Dana_Farber_For Scott and Marissa Carmel, PFAP’s mission struck particularly close to home, inspiring them to give directly to the program.

“I was raised by a single mother living paycheck to paycheck and a cancer diagnosis would have devastated our family financially,” said Scott. “The emotional and physical toll of a cancer diagnosis is hard enough, never mind the lost wages, medical costs and transportation costs. For Marissa and me, it is important to know that our gift goes directly towards helping those with the biggest need.”

Recognizing that some patients need assistance beyond the $250 in gas and groceries, Toffler’s department, Patient and Family Programs and Services, works to link patients with additional community resources suited to helping long term, including help to find lower cost prescriptions, housing opportunities, and groups offering additional financial assistance.

When a patient faces particularly dire circumstances that PFAP cannot alleviate, Patient and Family Programs and Services also offers a Crisis Fund program. Started with a grant from the Friends of Dana-Farber, the Crisis Fund is reserved for patients with critical needs that immediately threaten their treatment or recovery. Past recipients include patients who faced eviction from their homes or those with urgently needed home repairs, like a broken window.

Both PFAP and the Crisis Fund are supported by generous donors who direct their gifts to the programs.

“The Patient and Family Assistance Program relies on donor directed funds,” said Scott Carmel. “It is important for us to spread the word about the amazing work that Deb Toffler and her office undertake, and help ensure that funds are available to continue helping patients and their families.”

The Patient and Family Assistance Program recipients are both patients who were struggling financially before their diagnosis and those whose treatment has resulted in a major financial burden. To be eligible, patients must be at or below 400% of the poverty line. Annually, the program supports over 1,300 eligible families.

Maureen Quinn
Senior Assistant, Development Communications and Online Marketing