Elgin area women who are uninsured or underinsured can now get free mammograms and diagnostic testing thanks to a new partnership between a Chicago nonprofit and Presence St. Joseph Hospital.
Sandy Goldberg, founder of A Silver Lining Foundation, said this is the organization's 10th partnership with hospitals in the greater Chicago area -- and the first in the Northwest suburbs -- for the "Buy A Mom A Mammogram" program.
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The program, established in 2006, has served about 7,500 women to date, Goldberg said. Women don't have to be mothers to be eligible.
Dr. Patrick Para, medical director of medical imaging at Presence St. Joseph, said the program embodies the belief that everyone deserves access to care.
"I'm proud to be part of this program and giving people who are underserved the opportunity to serve them, and hopefully save a life," he said.
The mammogram program has an overall budget of about $400,000 out of the nonprofit's nearly $1 million yearly budget, Goldberg said.
The criteria for partnering with hospitals is "very, very, very rigid," she said.
It includes examining the hospital's facility, equipment and staff training, and its philosophy in administering care, she said.
The program offers free mammograms, plus diagnostic testing such as ultrasounds and biopsies when needed. Staff members will try to schedule testing on the same day as the mammogram so patients can avoid multiple trips, Para said.
That's speedier care than some of the best insurance programs can provide, said Laurie Schachtner, Presence St. Joseph's medical imaging and cancer center director.
"With insurance, it's stop, yellow light, red light," Schachtner said. "Instead, we can just go 'green' and do it."
If patients are diagnosed with breast cancer, the program's staff helps them find state- and federally-funded care, Goldberg said.
If all else fails, the partnership ensures the hospital steps up to provide care, although that needed to happen only once, she said.
Goldberg founded the nonprofit in 2002 after being diagnosed with breast cancer and finding out she was among the lucky ones with access to comprehensive medical care.
"I realized the extremely insulated and protected world I live in," Goldberg said.
"The women who come to A Silver Lining for help many times feel like the have tough choices to make. (They ask) 'Do I feed my children?' Do I pay my rent? Or do I go get this test?' "
Women interested in getting free mammograms should call (312) 345-1322 or (877) 924-1126.