PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
November 12, 2013

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Christie Administration Recognizes National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

To recognize National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd will take part in events to highlight New Jersey palliative care and hospice services to patients and their loved ones.

On November 13, Commissioner O'Dowd will take part in a Palliative Care Symposium at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. Commissioner O'Dowd will be part of a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Paul Katz, Dean, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. Other panelists include: Mark Angelo, MD, Head, Division of Palliative Care, Cooper University Health Care; Stephen Goldfine, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice; Barbara Sproge, MSN, RN, OCN, CHPN, Cooper University Health Care; and Kava Schafer, M.Div, MA; Chaplain / Spiritual Provider, University of Pennsylvania Health System.

On November 15, Commissioner O'Dowd will deliver remarks at the Hackensack University Medical Center's Celebrating Season of Life Palliative Care Conference. Celebrating the Seasons of Life is a one-day conference targeted to health care providers who work with patients and families during a chronic or serious illness. The conference will cover topics that include the philosophy of palliative care and addressing when to consult palliative care services. 

"New Jersey's hospice and palliative care programs deliver compassionate, supportive care to patients with serious illnesses as well as their families," said Commissioner O'Dowd. "The best way to ensure that dignity and autonomy are honored is by regularly sharing your wishes about palliative and end-of-life medical treatment with your family and primary care provider so that these issues are not confronted for the first time during a medical crisis."

Palliative care is care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease, such as cancer. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat, as early as possible, the symptoms and side effects of the disease and its treatment. Hospice programs provide palliative services to terminally ill patients in the home or at a health care facility, including medical, nursing, social work and volunteer and counseling services. Hospices provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support, and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible.

 The Department's web site at www.nj.gov/health/advancedirective, includes advance directive forms, educational materials, toolkits for completing an advance directive and links to web sites with additional information on hospice and palliative care.

The New Jersey Department of Health and New Jersey Hospital Association have developed POLST - Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment - a statewide program to empower individuals to make decisions regarding their medical care at the end of life. Governor Chris Christie signed New Jersey's POLST law in December 2011, and the POLST form was unveiled in February. The POLST form is designed to be completed jointly by an individual and a physician or advance practice nurse, detailing the individual's goals of care and medical preferences. To learn more about POLST, please visit http://nj.gov/health/advancedirective/polst.shtml

National Hospice and Palliative Care Month is sponsored by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) a nonprofit organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. The organization is committed to improving end-of-life care and expanding access to hospice care with the goal of profoundly enhancing the quality of life for people dying in America and their loved ones. 

Medicare and Medicaid, as well as most private insurers, cover hospice services. For a complete listing of licensed hospice programs in New Jersey, go to www.state.nj.us/health/healthfacilities/search.shtml.