Maine is one of the most rural states in the nation, with a population of 1.3 million people living over 30,000 square miles of vast mountains, lakes, forests, and coastline. While scenic and beautiful, Maine’s rural landscape can be a challenging place for individuals needing medical care.
When a rural Mainer receives a cancer diagnosis – an experience that is overwhelming on its own –the question of how they will get to and from their treatment often becomes top of mind. Maine Cancer Foundation is committed to better understanding the challenges around transportation in our state and supporting transportation programs that help cancer patients access their care.
Cancer patients are particularly vulnerable to a lack of transportation for several reasons. Patients receiving treatment require a high level of care with many healthcare provider visits. The cost of transportation as well as childcare/elder care, with consequent lost wages, can quickly become a financial burden. Additionally, many cancer patients are unable to drive themselves due to their illness and either have to pay for transportation services or rely heavily on family and friends to drive them to appointments.
MCF is working to change that story.
In 2017, MCF conducted a study to better understand the availability of services and where gaps or barriers exist and to find out where Maine cancer patients live and where they are accessing care. The assessment showed that the average round trip to care for a cancer patient in Maine is about 70 miles. In Washington County, the average round trip to treatment is 126 miles. On average, 4 out of 5 patients need to make more than one trip for their treatment. Radiation, for example, can occur five times a week in many treatment plans.
Knowing this information has helped inform our grantmaking and allowed us to make targeted investments to ensure Maine cancer patients are able to get to their treatment. With your support, MCF currently funds ten transportation grantee organizations throughout the state, and has invested over $650,000 in transportation programs since 2015. We couldn’t do it without you!