McLaren Art Therapy doubles impact due to grant

Erin Keith, M. Ed, ATR and Erika Burt pose for a photo at the Hospitality House at McLaren last week during an open house that highlighted Healing Through Art, a free art therapy program offered through Karmanos Cancer Institute and McLaren Flint. The program recently received a $60,000 grant from Genesee Health Plan that will more than double the program’s impact. Photo by Alex Petrie

Erin Keith, M. Ed, ATR and Erika Burt pose for a photo at the Hospitality House at McLaren last week during an open house that highlighted Healing Through Art, a free art therapy program offered through Karmanos Cancer Institute and McLaren Flint. The program recently received a $60,000 grant from Genesee Health Plan that will more than double the program’s impact. Photo by Alex Petrie

FLINT — Treatment for cancer patients has evolved over the past two decades to include a focus on emotional well-being and the role it plays in healing. The Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint added art therapy to its services 10 years ago. Overseen by a registered art therapist, the free program is open to patients, caregivers, family members, cancer survivors and staff.

After accepting a recent $60,000 grant from Genesee Health Plan (GHP), McLaren Flint’s Art Therapy Program is expected to double in impact this year. Traditionally, McLaren’s Art Therapy Program at Karmanos Cancer Institute touched between 500 and 700 lives each year. With the additional funding from GHP, however, that number is expected to double this year. This unique service involves individual and group sessions that combine art projects with supportive discussion, as well as a partnership with the Flint Institute of Arts called “Healing Through Art.”

In addition to ensuring all residents of Genesee County have access to basic health coverage and routine care, Genesee Health Plan is beginning to use its grant funding to support programs that offer a unique service in the community in which cost is not a barrier to patients. McLaren’s Art Therapy Program was selected as a GHP grant recipient as one of those unique and needed services.

Last week, McLaren Flint hosted an open house at the Hospitality House at McLaren, where program participants, patients, friends, family and local media were invited to learn more about the GHP grant and the Art Therapy Program, view samples of art projects and even create an art piece themselves.

Jim Milanowski, GHP President and CEO, was in attendance at the open house and said, “We wanted to really highlight this program and get the word out about how valuable this is for cancer patients. Karmanos approached us about getting a grant because they had limited resources, and Genesee Health Plan offers many different grants throughout the year, so we were very excited to be able to give them this grant of $60,000. We’re very, very glad to be a part of this program.”

Erin Keith, M. Ed, ATR, who is a registered art therapist and conducts the program at Karmanos, said, “This recent grant allowed us to expand from seven to 17 programs, and we’re able to offer more options to cancer survivors in treatment or after their treatment. It’s a great program, and it’s not just for Karmanos patients. It’s open to anyone in the community who is in treatment or is a cancer survivor.”

Erika Burt, a patient with stage IV cancer, has been in the program for about a year, and said that she has gained a great deal from attending. “There are different themes to the classes, and everyone kind of deals with things in their own way and has their own way of expressing themselves. Sometimes we learn about art and how to express ourselves, and sometimes we might just cry or hug. It’s really like a big family. It’s like my second family. I don’t know what I’d be doing without this program.”

For more information about Healing Through Art, visit www.mclaren.org/cancer or contact Erin Keith at erin.keith@mclaren.org.