$800,000 Allocated for End-of-Life Care

Benedum Foundation, NIH back West Virginia statewide program

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A private foundation and a federal agency will pour $800,000 into West Virginia’s statewide program to improve medical care at the end of life – a program seen as a model by other states.

The West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care, headquartered at West Virginia University, organized the statewide coalition and will administer the funds. Alvin H. Moss, M.D., a WVU faculty physician, is director of the Center.

The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation – which has provided $1.2 million to the effort since 1999 – has committed an additional $500,000 to continue its work for three years. The National Institute for Nursing Research – part of the National Institutes for Health – will provide $300,000 over the next three years to study how the West Virginia health care system converts patients and family wishes into formal medical orders.

"Long before the tragic case of Terri Schiavo captured the national spotlight, West Virginia health care leaders were developing one of the nation's best programs to improve end of life care,” said Beverly Railey Walter, vice president of the Benedum Foundation. “The Benedum Foundation recognized the excellence of this effort to best meet the needs of West Virginia families and to make the most effective use of scarce health care resources.”

“West Virginia is widely recognized as a national leader in end of life care,” Walter said. “The strong public-private collaborative has been key to success, and Benedum has been pleased to play a strong role in its development."

“Dr. Moss and all of the faculty and staff at West Virginia University who have participated in the development of West Virginia’s standard-setting efforts to improve end-of-life care are exemplary models of service for our students,” said WVU medical dean John E. Prescott, M.D. “We appreciate their work, and we very much appreciate the long-term support from the Benedum Foundation that us allowed them to spread this effort to all parts of the state.”

The Benedum funds will support two related efforts – education of health professionals and education of patients and family members. Health professionals in the West Virginia Palliative Care Network already have access to ongoing programs to help them relieve patients’ pain and discomfort at the end of life; the new funding will be directed toward training the next generation of health professionals in these skills. Public education includes a media campaign that informs people about their options when faced with terminal illness.

“Healthy dying, free of terrible pain, is a natural part of healthy living,” said Martha Yeager Walker, West Virginia secretary of health and human resources. “The life and health of every West Virginian is affected by the death of a close friend or loved one.  Adequate end-of-life care not only focuses on the needs of the patients, but also on the needs of family and friends.”

The federal grant is part of a research program, led by Oregon Health and Sciences University, that will investigate the use of West Virginia’s “Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment” (POST) form, and similar documents used in Oregon and Wisconsin. West Virginia law recognizes the POST form as a legal document, and requires that physicians, hospitals, rescue squads, nursing homes and others follow the patient directives recorded on the form. The research will track the use of the forms and compare the treatment requested with that actually provided.

Oregon and West Virginia have statewide POST programs and Wisconsin has a regional program.

“West Virginians are fortunate that the health care community, the State Legislature and the University have worked together for several years to improve health care at the end of life,” said Moss. “We have a system that makes a difference in people’s lives, and this support will help extend that system and make sure it is operating as planned.”

Both grants were announced in Charleston during the West Virginia Pain Summit.

- WVU -

For more information:
Bill Case, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087

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