Jefferson Hospice Foundation eyes expansion of services

PORT TOWNSEND — The Hospice Foundation for Jefferson Healthcare is looking for new and better funding options as officials eye expanding its services in Jefferson County, which has one of the oldest populations in the nation.

The Hospice Foundation held its seventh annual breakfast, one of the foundations largest fundraising events, Thursday afternoon.

“Hospice is an organization that you don’t realize how important it is until you need it,” said Jill Buhler, Jefferson Healthcare hospital commission chair.

The Hospice Foundation’s mission is to educate the community on the service offered by hospice and raise money to provide supplemental funds for those in the program when insurance or Medicare coverage falls short, according to its website at hospicefoundationjhc.org.

Aside from funding such services as respite care programs and comfort therapy, the foundation also funds individual and group grief support, end-of-life planning seminars, bereavement and counseling resources, and hospice education events.

“Education is part of our mission statement,” said Tom Duke, president of the Hospice Foundation board. “Unless you die suddenly, most of us will need these services.”

The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2016 that Jefferson County’s median age was 57.3, making it fifth in the nation — in a tie with Ontonagon County, Mich. — for an aging population. Tops in the nation was Sumter County, Fla., where the median age was 66.6.

Duke said the foundation is looking for more ways to raise money to cover the increasing need as the elderly population of Jefferson County continues to grow.

“We need $150,000 to do what we want to do,” Duke said. “If we met every request we get each year, we’d need $100,000 per year.”

The foundation currently runs on about $67,000 per year, he said.

The annual breakfast usually nets the foundation roughly $13,000 to $20,000 per year.

Officials are looking to encourage more donations and apply for more grants that could help cover some of the costs.

One of the major costs is a $20,500 contract with Stratis Health to help develop and implement palliative care for patients who don’t necessarily qualify for hospice care.

“Generally, hospice is for people with up to a six-month prognosis,” said Dr. Joe Mattern, chief medical officer and the hospice medical director for Jefferson Healthcare, “but there are plenty of services that other patients could benefit from.”

Mattern said the plan is to start small, implementing palliative in the home health program before moving forward.

“That’s the plan until the end of this year,” Mattern said.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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