Changes at Hospice of Northwest Michigan: Letter from the Executive Director

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Dear Friends and Champions of Hospice of Northwest Michigan,

 As you may have heard, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan has made the difficult decision to close their Home Health and Hospice Division, effective September 30, 2019. This news will have significant impact on Hospice of Northwest Michigan operations, but it does not necessarily mean the end of our homegrown hospice non-profit agency. To some extent, that is up to you.

 A bit of history, the agency began as a groundswell movement by a dedicated group of Charlevoix County residents in July, 1981. The intent being to provide support to families and caregivers who were caring for a dying loved one in their home. The original name of the agency was Charlevoix County Hospice.

 In those early years, actually lasting about a decade, there wasn’t a funding source available for hospice services in the United States outside of donations received and fundraising efforts put forth by staff and volunteers. In the mid-1990’s, that scenario changed. The United States government recognized the beneficial attributes that hospice agencies offered, and in response set up protocol for certified hospice agencies and began funding a hospice benefit through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Other major insurers followed suit. Through all those years and transitions the focus for our little non-profit remained on the mission, “ …to serve as a resource for end of life care in our communities.”

A significant transition occurred in the early 2000’s when we established a partnership with the Heath Department of Northwest Michigan (HDNWM). The HDNWM came onboard to provide the certified clinical component of the program. The nurses, medical director(s), spiritual care providers, social workers and health nurse aides became the care team core components. Charlevoix County Hospice was renamed Hospice of Northwest Michigan to reflect not only the partnership with the HDNWM, but also to expand the scope of services beyond Charlevoix County. For nearly 20 years, that partnership has served our communities with great love and great care. The clinical side of the partnership received all the funding from the insurance reimbursement of hospice benefits. When a situation arose that required equipment or supplies not covered by the benefit, the non-profit would provide the funding, when possible.

 The non-profit (501c3) arm of the partnership provided staff to raise awareness and funds; provide volunteer training and services; and offer grief support groups, programs and counseling. These services provided under the non-profit were funded solely by donations, grants and fundraising in the communities we serve. We have been blessed by our patrons for ongoing support in terms of volunteer work; donations of supplies and medical equipment; providing handmade lap quilts and prayer squares; and of course, through donations of money individually, through social groups, and by organizing fundraisers on our behalf. This support has been invaluable, and will be what will sustain as we go forward. Our grief support services, under the direction of David Behling, have been a source of comfort and healing for so very many in our communities. From our schools to our seniors, for loss of a friend, a spouse, a colleague, a pet; whether or not our hospice was a provider for someone’s loved one or not. This aspect of our services is especially vulnerable in this transition and is in need of support to continue.

 The Hospice of Northwest Michigan Board of Directors will be meeting to discuss our path going forward given this new development. As a staple of our community for nearly forty years, we do want to remain a community resource for end of life care. We are exploring options to continue to provide volunteer, bereavement and funding for unmet need support through contractual work with other hospice agencies in our area. We always hoped to provide an actual hospice home in our community – to provide a place for members who do not have a caregiver at home to receive hospice, or for a respite for caregivers needing a break from caregiving for a few days. We welcome your input as we explore our options. Please feel free to leave your comments below or contact Jeanne Marriott at j.marriott@nwhealth.org or call 231.547.7659. Thank you so very much for your support through the years. We hope with your help to continue our mission indefinitely.

 If you would like to make a donation in support of our ongoing mission, please click here.

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