Women's Wellness Connection offers free services for qualified women

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“It’s a very respectful process and a life-saving process. Women should know there are programs out there to help them."

Kathy Rhodes, outreach coordinator for the Northwest region of the Women's Wellness Connection

The Women’s Wellness Connection serving Northwest Colorado is helping uninsured and underinsured women receive free breast and and cervical cancer screenings.

“If a woman has some insurance but a deductible or co-pay she can’t afford, she’s welcome to come into the program,” said Kathy Rhodes, outreach coordinator for the Northwest Region of Women’s Wellness Connection.

It’s a 22-year-old program funded through the Colorado State Health Department. Each state in the nation has the program funded by the Centers for Disease Control. The program is part of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

There are some eligibility requirements, Rhodes said. The program is for women 40 to 64, but exceptions are occasionally made. Women should call the hotline for more information before thinking they’re not eligible.

Other eligibility requirements include living in Colorado, being a legal U.S. resident, having limited or no health insurance, having not had a pap test or mammogram in the last 12 months, and meet income requirements.

The program offers clinical breast exams, mammograms, pap, pelvic and HPV exams.

Rhodes said there are 130 provider sites in the state with several options locally for Moffat County residents.

Services through the program are available at the Visiting Nurse Association Community Health Center in Craig, along with the Planned Parenthood and Northwest Colorado VNA in Steamboat. Rhodes said services also are available at Planned Parenthood in Grandby.

Rhodes said the program allows women diagnosed by one of the program’s contractors to receive Medicaid. But she warns there is a caveat.

“If a woman were to get diagnosed by someone who’s not our provider, it exempts her from Medicaid,” Rhodes said. “If a woman goes somewhere else and they find an abnormality, as long as she gets referred into the program, she’s still eligible. It’s critical she gets in prior to receiving diagnosis.”

Rhodes urged women to take advantage of the potentially life-saving program.

“What’s so critical about breast cancer is when detected early it’s extremely treatable. When it’s caught in later stages it’s harder to treat, and the chance of survival decrease,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes added that 96 percent of the women they screen learn they’re cancer free, while 98 percent of women survive breast cancer when detected with early screening.

Rhodes said she expects the program will screen more than 18,000 women in Colorado this year, the most ever. Rhodes said they served 40 women in Moffat County last year, down from 100 the previous year because of state funding cuts.

Rhodes said this year they are fully funded again and expecting to be able to serve more women.

“It’s a very respectful process and a life-saving process. Women should know there are programs out there to help them,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes said she thinks women who don’t have the necessary means often don’t want to get screened because they think they won’t have treatment options. But said they have lots of options.

“I always think 'hand up,' not a handout,” Rhodes said. “This is for people from all walks of life who need the service. That’s what it was designed to do.”

Rhodes said the American Cancer Society recommends women over 40 receive mammograms once a year.

“Women should do it for the peace of mind. Getting screened is about the peace of mind. Most women we screen don’t have that,” Rhodes said.

For more information, call the hotline at 1-866-951-9355 or visit www.womenswellnessconnection.org. More information on breast cancer can be found at www.cancer.org/breastcancer.

Darian Warden can be reached at 875-1793 or dwarden@craigdailypress.com

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