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Small Nonprofit Taking Down Big Disease

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Hope Connections for Cancer Support just became the go-to organization for a unique service for cancer patients in the DC region.

Small Nonprofit Taking Down Big Disease

The nonprofit has been helping cancer patients and their families in the DC area with support groups and other services for the past eight years. But the small nonprofit is getting ready to see a huge demand for its services. The American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, which sets standards for healthcare providers, passed a mandate in 2012 that requires oncology hospitals to provide or refer psychosocial services to cancer patients. The mandate just went into effect Jan. 1.

Small Nonprofit Taking Down Big Disease

Founder Paula Rothenberg, shown at the organization's recent gala, launched Hope Connections for Cancer Support in 2007 after her father passed away from cancer. She says the mandate finally provided evidence that psychosocial services help cancer patients with their survival. The nonprofit has been offering its services out of a rented home built in 1929 on the 11-acre grounds of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology in Bethesda. Paula said she wanted an environment that was the opposite of the clinical environment. The nonprofit has had 57,000 visits to its home. She’s establishing a similar home in Prince George’s County, where no services of this kind are available.

Small Nonprofit Taking Down Big Disease

Soon after evidence was released about this support's effectiveness, Hope Connections for Cancer Support started talking to DC area hospitals about being their in-house provider. It started with the new Aquilino Cancer Center on the grounds of Shady Grove Hospital in October 2013 and soon spread to Medstar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney. Only one other organization in the DC region provides a similar service—Life with Cancer, a program of the Inova Hospital System. Paula says she’s talking to more local hospitals but is also focused on smart growth and stability for the nonprofit.