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Boosting access – New initatives in works

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By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Pam Barrett is looking for new ways to help people deal with dying, an experience that fear, pain and misunderstanding can make one of the toughest in life.

As executive director of Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro, a 20-year-old nonprofit that provides end-of-life care to terminally ill patients, Barrett is overseeing several new initiatives to expand the reach of Hospice and the choices available to people in their final days.

“We’re trying to improve access for more people who have needs at the end of life,” says Barrett. “We want to extend the expertise we have gained over 20 years to improve the quality of living and dying for those in our community.”

The new initiatives come at a time when dying is the focus of a growing national debate, thanks to a recent PBS special, Time magazine cover story and hearing in Congress.

Hospice provides home care for about 140 patients a day, and cares for another 12 patients at Beacon Place, its five-year-old $1.6 million residential facility.

With the help of $479,000 in funding two years ago from three local foundations, Hospice has launched a project to improve care for the dying beyond traditional hospice settings.

The new project is looking for ways to extend hospice care to residents of retirement communities and long-term nursing facilities, as well as to people who are hospitalized and may not be able to go home.

The project was funded by the Duke Endowment in Charlotte and the Moses Cone-Wesley Long Community Health Foundation and now-defunct Kathleen Price Bryan Family Fund, both in Greensboro.

To test national research that found most Americans die in settings and circumstances they would least choose, Hospice has conducted in-depth interviews with more than 100 survivors of people who died in nursing homes, hospitals and under Hospice care.

Interview results are being analyzed by the Missoula Demonstration Project, a nationally recognized initiative in Montana that aims to change the local culture of death and dying there.

Hospice also is working on a small pilot project with Advanced Home Care, a home health agency partly owned by the Moses Cone Health System, to help patients who may not yet be eligible for hospice care under Medicare begin to plan for their health-care needs and end-of-life care.

One goal of the pilot project, known as Transitions, is to develop a screening tool to identify patients’ special needs that Advanced Home Care could integrate into its operations.

Another effort, Transition and Life Choices – or TLC — will provide consulting services and resource guides on a fee-for-service basis to people facing end-of-life questions, such as what to ask a physician, how to navigate the health-care system and how to play an active role in decision-making.

Hospice also has been a pioneer in caring for dying youngsters, and providing grief counseling for children.

Hospice has raised $1.9 million in a $2 million capital campaign to fund a new facility for its Kids Path program, which cares for about 20 seriously ill youngsters at any one time, and last year provided about 400 children with grief counseling.

Carole Bruce, a lawyer at Smith Helms Mullis & Moore, and nursing consultant Janice Brewington, president of the Hospice board, chair the campaign, which last year received a $250,000 lead gift from Clarence and Bill Jones.

Construction of the 9,000-square-foot facility began in the summer and is scheduled to be completed next spring.

Hospice also is working to solicit giving to its endowment. The group’s Summit Society, chartered four years ago with 53 members – 31 living and 22 deceased who had left bequests – now has 68 members.

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