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Nonprofit Gateway to Hope addresses inequities in health care by supporting those with breast cancer

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Photo by Brand B Photography

In 2022 thus far, more than 400 Missouri women have walked through the Gateway to Hope.

The Maplewood-based nonprofit helps uninsured and underinsured women who are diagnosed with breast cancer navigate treatment while receiving critical financial and emotional support. Women who are actively undergoing breast cancer treatment and who meet a financial eligibility requirement of annual income at or below 4.5 times the federal poverty rate – approximately $56,000 per year for a single individual – work with one of the organization’s three patient navigators to create and implement an individual plan.

“Our programs speak directly to removing barriers to [health care] access,” says Ania Colvin, director of development and communications. “Our patient navigators work with social workers inside the hospital systems to really carve out and design an approach that is patient-centered. My program experience is going to be different from yours because my life and everything I have going on is different from what you have going on.”

Colvin points to the St. Louis County Cancer Profile when citing disturbing breast cancer statistics: “Black and brown women are two to four times more likely to die [from breast cancer] than white women.” The county’s report also notes: “Those living in ZIP codes in the less affluent Inner North and Outer North regions of the county, as well as some pockets of the Central region, have higher mortality rates. This may be a reflection of disparities in access to treatment and screening opportunities.”

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Photo by Brand B Photography

Gateway to Hope provides direct financial and service-based assistance that includes rent or mortgage assistance, help paying insurance premiums and utility bills, and access to affordable transportation needed to reach medical appointments. Patients receive assistance running from a few months to a full year, depending on their circumstances.

“We do a full-blown assessment in which our navigators talk through every aspect [of a patient’s needs],” Colvin says. “Some patients say, ‘You think of everything!’ because our navigators are trained to ask the right questions. And we have to ask all of the right questions to ensure we’re getting you a comprehensive plan that’s going to work for you.”

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Photo by Brand B Photography

The organization collaborates on fundraising with businesses throughout the area. For example, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Gateway to Hope received a share of profits from T-shirt sales through Series Six, the B.C.A. Cocktail at Mission Taco Joint, breast cancer awareness jewelry sold at Brighton Collectibles and various swag through Golden Gems. Health systems and other nonprofit organizations throughout Missouri and southern Illinois also partner with Gateway to Hope to provide services and assistance.

Colvin invites individuals to donate online at the organization’s website or to volunteer their services. “Gateway to Hope is really working to make a difference in Missouri,” she says. “We have interventions and programs and advocacy efforts that are trying to not only take care of women who have breast cancer, but we’re working with community partners to come together and figure out ways that we can increase the services that are offered. We all have to step up to make health care equitable and accessible for everyone.”

Gateway to Hope, 3114 Sutton Blvd., Maplewood, 314-569-1113, gthstl.org

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Connie, a native of St. Charles and graduate of the MU School of Journalism, is a freelance writer and editor who contributes to print and online publications for clients throughout the region. She enjoys travel, hiking, kayaking and drinking good coffee

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