Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Damage control: Montana's Komen for the Cure responds

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2012 at 11:00 AM

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The Susan G. Komen for the Cure is desperately seeking a remedy to a week's worth of horrendous publicity. The nation's leading breast cancer charity received fierce backlash after deciding to cut ties with Planned Parenthood. Social media was filled with critics decrying the move as political and flat-out wrong. Even 26 senators, including Montana's Max Baucus and Jon Tester, urged the group to reconsider.

After days of puzzling silence, Komen finally apologized last Thursday. For many, it wasn't enough. The backlash hasn't subsided.

Now, the Montana affiliate of Komen for the Cure is hoping to limit the damage. In a letter released to state media outlets, Executive Director Nancy W. Lee reiterates the national organization's apology and pleads for local support.

"While it is our responsibility to rebuild trust, remember that not funding Komen in the future would hurt those in most need," she writes.

Lee makes a point of explaining Planned Parenthood's relationship with Komen in Montana.

Of the dollars donated to Komen Montana, 75 percent remains in Montana and 25 percent funds national breast cancer research. In Montana, Planned Parenthood has never applied for a community grant for breast health services. Nineteen of the 120 Komen Affiliate communities funded a Planned Parenthood center to pay for a breast exam or mammogram referral. All grants, regardless of the organization being funded are restricted to breast health services and are closely monitored.

The full letter appears below.

Last week, the Susan G. Komen national organization changed a policy that was revised in mid-December recognizing the importance of removing the perception that politics were involved in our grant making. We want to apologize to our supporters for casting doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives. While it is our responsibility to rebuild trust, remember that not funding Komen in the future would hurt those in most need. The real losers would be underserved women and their families across the state who do not have the privilege of early detection for a disease that can have an almost 100% survival rate if found early.

The Komen Montana Affiliate’s goal has always been to efficiently and effectively use the dollars entrusted to our organization to fund community grants that provide breast health screening, education and treatment support programs for the medically underserved. We have a great deal of integrity. We recognize the difficult week our supporters have experienced and are committed to rebuilding trust.

Every donation we receive truly makes an impact in Montana. Last year alone, Komen Montana funded grants totaling $182,000 for breast cancer screening, education and follow-up care. Two examples: Livingston HealthCare's Paint Park County Pink campaign educates women about the importance of breast cancer screening, provides free mammograms to women, and offers free clinical breast exams to women of all ages. The population in this area is predominantly rural with nearly half of the residents living at or below 150% of the poverty level. The Women's Wellness Screenings in Central and Eastern Montana provides free mammograms for under and uninsured women in Billings, Miles City, Harlowton, and the surrounding region. Additionally, a partnership with Billings Clinic's National Community Cancer Centers Program provides free mammogram screenings for American Indian women from the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Reservations through a partnership with Big Horn Memorial Hospital. Learn about all the Komen 2011-12 grants at http://www.komenmontana.org/grants/current-grant-recipients/.

Of the dollars donated to Komen Montana, 75 percent remains in Montana and 25 percent funds national breast cancer research. In Montana, Planned Parenthood has never applied for a community grant for breast health services. Nineteen of the 120 Komen Affiliate communities funded a Planned Parenthood center to pay for a breast exam or mammogram referral. All grants, regardless of the organization being funded are restricted to breast health services and are closely monitored. Montana has health systems that deliver breast health care and Komen Montana has provided funding to many of these programs, almost $1.2 million in the 17 years it has been organizing the Race for the Cure.

Even with the tough challenges Komen is facing, we are deeply committed to our Promise — to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for ALL and energizing science to find the cures. Money raised in Montana will continue to provide critical breast health services across the state.

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