Broken, not broke: Webinar on effort at NJCU to assist pediatric cancer patients with limited financial means

The Guarini Institute for International Education and Economic Mobility at New Jersey City University next week will launch brokenNotBroke, a portal that facilitates information on financial support of pediatric cancer patients.

The launch will include a virtual panel discussion (from 1-2 p.m. Tuesday) that will discuss the impact of childhood cancer on the financial stability and economic mobility of families and communities.

The portal was developed by the Guarini Institute at NJCU and offers access to information about 450 organizations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico that are dedicated to providing financial aid to pediatric cancer patients.

Dr. Adrián Franco, the executive director of the Guarini Institute at NJCU, said the need is great.

“Families of children diagnosed with cancer are emotionally broken and, in many cases, also endure financial ruin,” he said. “Recognizing this pressing need, the Guarini Institute at NJCU has meticulously curated a database featuring over 450 nationwide organizations committed to extending financial support to pediatric cancer patients.

“Through the user-friendly portal, brokenNotBroke, we aim to streamline and expedite the process for families and social workers to access vital information about these organizations. Our north star is to shed light on the profound economic toll of childhood cancer on families and mitigate this burden by fostering meaningful connections between patients and the resources available.”

The brokenNotBroke portal was designed to be user-friendly and stress-free to make it easier and faster for families and medical professionals to access relevant information. Access to the portal is free and users don’t need to register or input any information to use it.

About the Guarini Institute

Launched in November 2020, the mission of the Guarini Institute for International Education and Economic Mobility has been to create novel tools to facilitate the economic mobility of individuals and families experiencing financial hardship. Its vision is that financially vulnerable individuals and families have access to relevant information and resources to improve their upward economic mobility.

The institute has previously facilitated formal agreements between NJCU and the Mexican government, higher education institutions in Ireland and the Port of Ashdod in Israel.

The site was created and sponsored by the Guarini Institute at NJCU. Users only need to answer 3 questions — ZIP code, type of cancer and type of funding/support. The portal will return a list of helpful organizations and links to their applications. Users can filter the list if they need help with specific expenses such as housing, parking or out-of-pocket costs.

Nationally, families impacted by childhood cancer experience significant monetary shocks, which the brokenNotBroke portal aims to combat. Depending on the length of the treatment and the socioeconomic status of the family, impact ranges from draining assets like retirement funds and college funds to bankruptcy and eviction, excessive debt and unemployment.

During the event, NJCU interim President Andrés Acebo will offer a welcome and Franco will provide an introduction to the brokenNotBroke platform.

During the discussion, Theresa Segui, executive director of Ocean of Love, will provide insight on the financial challenges faced by families impacted by childhood cancer.

Michelle Fritsch, the cancer coordinator for the Texas Children’s Cancer & Hematology Center and president of the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Workers, will lead a conversation on navigating the challenges of securing financial assistance for families affected by childhood cancer.

Michael Prilutsky, CEO of Jersey City Medical Center, will present dialogue on the economic impact of chronic illnesses like childhood cancer in communities.

After a Q&A session moderated by Franco, Mussab Ali, director of Vote16USA, will extend closing remarks.

A study by the National Children’s Cancer Society notes that 25% of families lose 40% of their income as a result of treatment. A third of parents and caregivers will lose their job or change jobs as a consequence of the diagnosis. Furthermore, data shows that 10-15% of families who were not considered poor prior to cancer diagnosis fall into poverty as a result. On average, hospitalizations principally for cancer cost nearly five times as much as hospitalizations for other conditions.

Families of children diagnosed with cancer are confronted with numerous and long-term expenses that have a significant effect on the financial stability of the household, including health-related costs (hospital expenses, medicines and insurance deductibles), and consequential expenses such as child care of siblings, transportation to medical centers and housing accommodations.