LePage Rejects Federal Investment in Lifesaving Cancer Screenings for Maine Residents

PRESS RELEASE Dec 18, 2015
Administration turns down nearly 2.5 million dollars in federal funds to increase
colorectal cancer screening

AUGUSTA – December 18, 2015 – Earlier this week, Governor LePage indicated he would turn down nearly 2.5 million dollars over the course of five years from the federal government aimed at increasing lifesaving – and ultimately cost-saving – screening rates for colorectal cancer.

Earlier this year, Maine was chosen as one of 24 state health departments to receive a competitive federal grant to increase colorectal cancer screening rates through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program (CRCCP). Historically, these funds have proven instrumental in saving lives across the country, including in Maine, by increasing cancer screening and early detection rates.

Colorectal cancer is largely preventable with routine screening, yet it remains the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women combined and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in Maine. The American Cancer Society estimates that 610 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and that 240 people will die from the disease in Maine this year.

“In the past decade, there has been unprecedented progress in reducing colorectal cancer incidence and death rates, largely due to the prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer through screening,” said Hilary Schneider, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in Maine. “As an organization dedicated to making the fight against cancer a state and national priority, it is unfathomable that Governor LePage would reject an investment that could help prevent cancer and save the lives of hundreds of Mainers. Despite strong bipartisan support for cancer prevention early detection programs and funding, the Governor has chosen to forego this critical public health investment.”

“These are Maine’s taxpayers’ dollars that belong back in the state of Maine, to save Maine lives,” said Tina Pettingill, Executive Director of the Maine Public Health Association. “To continue to make progress in the fight against cancer, we need to continue to work in partnership with the state and federal governments. Maine received this grant because of our successful state and private sector initiatives in colorectal cancer screening and prevention, yet the Governor has elected to discard the opportunity to enhance the systems of care that could save the lives of Maine men and women.”

“Colorectal cancer is a major public health problem in Maine, and adults age 50 and older should be regularly screened for it. However, we have found that many people aren’t getting tested because they don’t realize they are at risk, don’t understand the testing options or don’t think they can afford it,” said Tara Hill, Executive Director of Maine Cancer Foundation. “By rejecting this federal funding, we are risking the health of our friends and neighbors and asking the state to take on the financial burden. The key to cancer is catching it early when it’s treatable and beatable. The CRCCP does exactly that.”

A broad coalition of organizations in the state have joined together to bring attention to the Governor’s rejecting nearly 2.5 million dollars over five years in CRCCP investment in Maine lives. The coalition includes physicians and practices, the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the Maine Osteopathic Association, Maine Medical Association, Maine Primary Care Association, New England Cancer Specialists, Maine Public Health Association and the Maine Cancer Foundation.