Access to Lifesaving Healthcare

A recent immigrant receives lifesaving treatment through Project Access.

Liliana Gonzalez, cancer survivor. Photo credit: Damaris Velez

In January 2018, Liliana Gonzalez felt a lump in her breast. Lacking health insurance, she was hesitant to see a doctor. She and her husband had only moved to New Haven two years prior, having fled civil turmoil in Venezuela to apply for political asylum. Then she learned about the Fair Haven Community Health Clinic, where a biopsy was taken and her worst fears were confirmed – she had breast cancer. With no insurance and no ability to pay for treatment, Gonzelez was terrified by the thought of cancer spreading through her body.

That was when Gonzalez was referred to Project Access, a network of health care providers that offer free medical care to uninsured and low-income people in Greater New Haven. She was enrolled in its Breast Health Navigation Program, and within three weeks of her diagnosis, Gonzalez began chemotherapy. One year later, Gonzalez is responding well to treatment.

Gonzalez is a freelance writer who worked as a journalist in Venezuela. Below is an excerpt of her story in her own words translated from Spanish into English.

"I was devastated with the diagnosis of my illness. I live with my husband and daughter and we did not have the slightest idea of where to go for help and support. We do not have the means to cover the medical costs and we did not know how to deal with everything required by my cancer treatment. Feeling that I could receive help and financial assistance from Project Access gave me hope to live.

The Project Access staff are always attentive and willing to provide help and information. When I receive their calls to remind me of my medical appointments, they are always very kind and willing to guide me. I appreciate all of their support. I was able to see a doctor quickly and I am currently being treated at Smilow. Since enrolling in Project Access, I have received medical attention from an oncologist, a breast surgeon, many nurses, and other medical personnel. Everyone has been very nice and my experience with Project Access and my doctors has been excellent.

Without Project Access, I would not be able to pay for my treatment. Before knowing about Project Access, I found myself in an unsustainable state of distress thinking about the possibility of dying with cancer that does not stop, instead, it continues to grow and reproduce. My mood got better and I felt more hopeful about the future thanks to Project Access. The difference is immense – I am very thankful for Project Access.

From heaven to earth, thank you Project Access. My family and I feel confident, protected, and supported in this difficult stage of our lives. I am very grateful for all the staff of Project Access, as well as all the people and institutions that collaborate with this program to provide help to people like me who need medical care."

Project Access-New Haven was founded in 2009 by a group of dedicated physicians who were concerned about inadequate access to medical care -- and resulting health disparities -- among low-income, uninsured and underinsured individuals in Greater New Haven.

In 2018, The Community Foundation awarded the organization a three-year responsive grant for General Operating Support.

To learn more or offer support, please visit the Project Access profile on

Did you know?

Fourteen percent of Connecticut adults reported their health as "fair" or "poor," and 33 percent said they were just getting by or finding it difficult to manage financially, according to the 2018 DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.