The Carolyn Adams Ticket for the Cure (TFTC) is an Illinois Lottery specialty ticket where 100 percent of profits go toward breast cancer research, awareness, and education in Illinois. Launched in 2006, the ticket was renamed in 2011 in honor of former Illinois Lottery superintendent Carolyn Adams, who helped write the legislation for TFTC before losing her battle to breast cancer. Since 2006, the ticket has raised over $15 million in grant funding for medical research centers and community organizations across the state, which is distributed by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Tickets cost $3 and are available for purchase at over 7,000 Illinois Lottery retailers statewide. Visit the Illinois Lottery website for more information, and read on to learn more about two recent grant recipients, Chicago’s Anixter Center and Cass County Health Department.
Navigating breast cancer screenings, physician appointments, and treatment plans can be daunting for anyone, but those who are Deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing often face additional challenges when it comes to communicating with their health-care providers or receiving proper care. That reality has been compounded in recent years, partially due to the pandemic.“There’s been a shortage of interpreters who work in medical settings and mask use has made communication even more difficult,” says Karen Aguilar, vice president of communication access at Chicago’s Anixter Center.
Founded as an orphanage in 1919 by a group of friends in honor of a friend who’d lost several children to the influenza pandemic, Anixter currently serves Chicagoans living with disabilities and behavioral health needs, and—through their Chicago Hearing Society division—those who are Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing. Their Ticket for the Cure grant serves that latter clientele by funding a patient navigator, breast cancer education videos in American Sign Language, community workshops, and other outreach activities.
The program’s navigator works with clients from their first screenings through the end of their cancer journey, helping them make appointments and understand terminology while acting as medical advocates. “It’s so important that the patient understands their physician,” Aguilar says. “That’s important for hearing people, but many hearing people are equipped with the knowledge of what’s going to happen at a medical appointment. For a Deaf person who might not have that experience of overhearing certain medical terms as they grow up, it can be very new to them.”
Anixter’s work remains vital, because ultimately, for these patients there’s much more than miscommunication at stake. “Poor communication between patients who are Deaf, DeafBlind or hard of hearing and their physicians, nurses, and techs can lead to misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and poor assessments,” Aguilar says. “And a lack of communication feeds into misunderstandings that we want to make sure are removed.”
Cass County Health Departmentcasscohealth.org
County health departments play important roles in their communities, but for residents of medically underserved areas, such as Cass County, Illinois, they can be particularly vital resources for personal health care. Located in central Illinois, the county is predominantly farmland and the nearest hospital is a 40-minute drive away. In 2005, the Cass County Health Department became recognized as a Federally Qualified Health Center, allowing them to address the lack of medical services in the area with the creation of two full-service doctor’s offices (which operate on a sliding-scale basis), and a home health and hospice program.
With their Ticket for the Cure grant, the health department has boosted its breast-cancer-related outreach and education for clients of all ages and walks of life. Cass County’s population is relatively small—at about 13,000 people, it’s roughly the same as Chicago’s Armour Square neighborhood—but it’s exceptionally diverse. That’s partially due to food-processing company JBS USA, which employs many immigrant workers at its Beardstown meatpacking plant.
“Most rural health departments focus solely on rural health, but we’re looking at it from the angle of making sure we’re able to communicate and provide services in English, French, Spanish, and Burmese, which are the dominant languages in Cass County,” says Cass County Health Department director of health education Andrew English.
Their team is also mindful of the varying cultural attitudes toward breast health among the people they serve. They work closely with the local immigration center and respected community leaders on education and outreach initiatives, such as recruiting and training community members to serve as breast health ambassadors and offering women’s health-care events in several languages. Additionally, they meet with clients to empower them in navigating the health-care system, and access screenings, referrals, and sometimes—through a partnership with a local transit company—rides to medical appointments in neighboring counties.
“We’re here because we have a passion, and we really want people to do things that will increase their likelihood of remaining healthy,” English says. “We’re putting that message out into the community to get people to not just wear a pink ribbon, but to act.”