“Triaging” Cancer and Behavioral Health Concerns
This week, Real World Health Care shines a spotlight on Triage Cancer, a national, non-profit organization that provides education on the practical and legal issues that may impact individuals diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers, through events, materials and resources. We spoke with Joanna L. Morales, Esq., CEO of Triage Cancer, who offered insights on how the concept of “triaging” can be applied to behavioral health issues associated with cancer.
Collaborating to Help Cancer Patients
Real World Health Care: Can you tell us about the mission of Triage Cancer?
Joanna Morales: Triage Cancer believes that collaboration is the key to providing valuable information and practical tools on survivorship to the cancer community, particularly to its underserved members. To that end, Triage Cancer works with cancer community partners, healthcare professionals and other experts to connect people to relevant, practical and personal information on cancer survivorship issues, such as access to healthcare, treatment options, psychosocial care, survivorship planning, and the practical, legal and financial issues that arise as a result of a cancer diagnosis.
Navigating a Cancer Diagnosis
RWHC: How does the concept of triaging relate to being diagnosed, living with and surviving cancer, including related behavioral or mental health issues?
JM: Triaging is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatment based on the severity of their condition. When someone is dealing with a cancer diagnosis, there is information to learn, things that need to be dealt with, and decisions to make. Trying to juggle it all can be incredibly overwhelming. Our goal is to provide access to quality information about all types of cancer survivorship issues that may arise after a diagnosis. Armed with that information, individuals not only get the big picture of how to reach their end goals, but they can better decide what needs to be handled first and what can wait until later – the very definition of triaging.
With behavioral health issues associated with cancer, it’s about deciding what you can do for yourself and in which order those actions will best serve you. With a cancer diagnosis comes side effects and difficult decisions regarding treatment, health insurance, financial issues and more. Dealing with these legal and practical issues can create stress and anxiety. There is also data that shows that individuals with a higher financial burden are more likely to experience depression. We offer education on how to effectively navigate these issues, to thereby decrease stress, anxiety and depression. We also provide tools on stress management and other psychosocial topics that impact mental health.
For example, we offer a Don’t Stress the Stress webinar as well as a webinar on Staying Healthy After Cancer: Behaviors You Can Adopt to Improve Your Health. We also offer Quick Guides and an educational blog on our Resources page.
We have a new webinar coming up on November 15 that does a great job explaining what stress is and how it affects everyone differently. It will also provide simple, common sense and practical techniques to get stress under control. I encourage your readers to register for the webinar.
Recognizing a Problem is Just the First Step
RWHC: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing the cancer patient community when it comes to behavioral health problems?
JM: At Triage Cancer, we believe one of the biggest challenges regarding behavioral health is not being sure where to start looking for help. Recognizing a problem is just the first step. Finding answers can be hard, and taking action toward a healthier you can be even harder.
While health insurance coverage includes coverage for behavioral and mental health care, there are still likely to be out of pocket costs that you may be responsible for. If your budget is tight, consider financial assistance programs that may be available to you, rather than just skipping getting the help you need. Triage Cancer offers a separate website at www.CancerFinances.org, which provides information on how to navigate finances after a cancer diagnosis and connects you to financial assistance resources.
A Message from Our Sponsor
As the founding sponsor of Real World Health Care, the HealthWell Foundation is committed to helping patients get the medical treatments they need, regardless of their ability to pay. We’ve seen first-hand how financial distress can impact the health and lives of individuals and families. Cancer patients with behavioral health conditions are particularly hard hit; according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), patients with some forms of cancer incur $8,000 more per year in health care costs than cancer patients without behavioral health conditions.
In keeping with our mission, we are now accepting applications for our recently launched Cancer-Related Behavioral Health (CRBH) Fund, specifically for treatment-related behavioral health issues in cancer. The Fund provides financial assistance to individuals with a diagnosis of cancer to help with cost-shares (deductibles, coinsurances and copayments) for covered services rendered by behavioral health providers (psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical counselors, and licensed social workers).