Wellness Community, Gilda’s Club Merge

Two cancer organizations merged recently to become the largest employer of social workers who provide psychosocial oncology support.

The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club Worldwide pooled their resources to become the Cancer Support Community (CSC). Both organizations have established solid, reliable reputations in the cancer community and share a commitment to quality, integrity and services based on the best research available to move the two organizations’ agendas forward.

Licensed oncology social worker Vicki Kennedy is vice president of program development and quality assurance at CSC. She said the two organizations joined forces to ensure that no one has to face cancer alone and that all people touched by the disease should have access to vital psychosocial services that will enable them to improve their quality of life.

“The integration of these two venerable organizations provide us far greater operating efficiencies and enhanced capacity that is attractive to funders,” Kennedy said. “With our local support centers and online community, we are positioned to be the largest provider of professional cancer support worldwide as well as the largest employer of licensed mental health professionals in oncology.”

Kennedy said the CSC reaches nearly 400,000 people each year.

The importance of treating the psychosocial needs of cancer survivors and their families was backed up by the Institute of Medicine in its 2007 report, “Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs.”

Kennedy said the study is a call to action and it means “meeting the psychosocial health needs of people with cancer is no longer just a nice thing to do.”

Kennedy said psychosocial screening is a critical recommendation of the IOM report.

“CSC and others through the Alliance for Quality Psychosocial Care are at the forefront in ensuring that psychosocial care is integrated into the medical standard of care for people with cancer,” she said. “Social workers will play a central role in administering the screening, helping members create personal support plans and evaluating the process.”

CSC has 47 affiliates with more than 100 service locations in 27 states and four countries. It employs nearly 450 licensed social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and licensed professional counselors — all of whom have special training in oncology social work and psychosocial oncology, Kennedy said.

Social workers serve as program directors, clinical group facilitators, outreach coordinators and executive directors in the CSC organization.

“Social workers, particularly those with strong program management skills, are ideally suited for the patient empowerment model promoted at CSC,” Kennedy pointed out. “At the headquarters level, social workers write grants, develop new programs, participate in survivorship research, oversee quality assurance and provide leadership throughout the network.”

NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark recently delivered a plenary address at the annual leadership meeting of The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club Worldwide. She spoke about the IOM report and the need for more training for health care workers involved in aging.

“The services, support and guidance offered by The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club offer a comprehensive approach that is essential when treating the whole patient,” Clark said.

She also spoke about the importance of advocacy. “Helping professionals can improve the quality of life for all individuals by acting on a broader scale to advocate for healthier individuals, families and communities,” she explained.

Kennedy said CSC will always utilize oncology social workers and other mental health professionals as the core providers of its therapeutic community services.

“As we open more centers, expand our online programs, research and training initiatives and create new models of service delivery, highly skilled oncology social workers will be key to our success,” Kennedy said. “I fully anticipate that system-wide, we see our social work ranks expand significantly in the decade ahead.”