LaChanda Davis, a representative from the Mid-South Division of the American Cancer Society, shared that information along with a piece of recent news at a meeting of the Bradley County Health Council on Tuesday. The news she announced could mean more cancer patients gaining access to regular transportation to help take care of their health care needs.
The American Cancer Society’s divisional office in Chattanooga provides a variety of services to cancer patients and their families in Hamilton County. Soon, it will be expanding its services to surrounding counties, and Bradley County will be the first.
“What we want to do is to see how we can alleviate the barriers that keep people from their treatments,” Davis said.
The organization currently offers its programs to Bradley County on a by-request basis. However, it plans to expand its programs, with transportation being a major focus. Davis said one of the main reasons for wanting to focus on transportation for Bradley County cancer patients is many of them traveling to doctors and hospitals in Chattanooga.
Davis listed a few of the organization’s programs but gave special focus to the “Road to Recovery” program which enlists volunteers to provide transportation to cancer patients who cannot travel to receive treatments on their own.
Volunteers use their own vehicles and pay for their own gas to drive people to cancer treatment sessions. Drivers must have a driver’s license, valid car insurance and a good driving record to register to be a “Road to Recovery” driver. Once drivers have gone through a background check and training from the American Cancer Society, they can be matched with those who need rides. Patients need to give at least a week’s notice if they need a ride, and will be given a list of times when a driver can take them where they need to go.
The organization is currently looking for volunteers in the Cleveland area. Anyone interested in becoming a “Road to Recovery” driver can call 267-8613 for more information.
The health council has designated mental health as its focus for the year, and Davis recognized that, sharing about some of the American Cancer Society programs focusing on cancer patients’ mental well-being.
“Though the issue is cancer, they have all these other issues in their families as well,” she said.
One program is the “Look Good ... Feel Better” program that teaches women how to use makeup to help hide the effects of cancer. Participants are each given a makeup kit, and a professional makeup artist will show them how to use it well. That can help the women maintain a higher level of self-esteem, Davis said.
The organization also refers people to various support groups and counseling services.
Before Davis had taken her turn to speak, council member Emily McComb, who works for the United Way of Bradley County, presented members with a tentative list of all the mental health services available for children and adolescents in Bradley County. At the council’s previous meeting, members had decided to make mental health a major point of focus and voted to compile a list of services to be made available for parents at schools, churches and other organizations.
After discussing various resources such as parenting classes, the council determined there was no viable option for adolescents in need of in-patient mental health care in Cleveland. The closest facility serving juvenile mental health crises is located in Hamilton County, council members said.
Teresa Shull of Hiwassee Mental Health said the distance can be a problem for adolescents facing mental health emergencies in which they might be considered a danger to themselves or others.
“It’s 25 minutes away,” Shull said. “It’s a gap. We know we can send them to the ER, and [help] can be here as quickly as anyone within Bradley County could. But it’s not within Bradley County to serve them in a crisis.”
Another problem, she said, is that violent behaviors can come and go, and the patient might not be showing the same symptoms by the time he or she gets to see a doctor at a hospital in Chattanooga.
“A crisis subsides, and they’re not getting the services they needed,” Shull said.
Members said they would continue to raise awareness about the need for more mental health services for young people.
McComb said she hoped to compile a list of mental health services for adults as well.
The Bradley County Health Council consists of members who are health care or community service providers and meets monthly at SkyRidge Medical Center.