Updated February 17, 2005
A partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health's MetroSuburban Area, the state's Medicaid Bureau, Emerson Hospital's Hospice Program and Hospice of the South Shore is reaching out to people suffering from longstanding, serious mental illness who are dying.
Nationwide, people with profound psychiatric illness who are facing life's end are often forgotten. Even most hospice providers have scant experience with these patients, and few protocols exist for helping those with mental illness through the last days of their lives.
The Department of Mental Health, Medfield, MA, has established an innovative mental health-hospice partnership to integrate end-of-life care planning into the mental health planning process. This innovative program, End of Life Care for Persons with Serious Mental Illness, has developed tools that assess competence to select a health care proxy and is eliciting information about care preferences among patients with serious mental illness who suffer from progressive, incurable illness.
The program also teaches hospice workers about mental illness and mental health care workers about hospice. The program initiated in the Metro area and is expanding to an additional urban area and a rural community.
The project trains mental health care providers to clarify patients' preferences for care, within the setting of ongoing mental health care. Project Director Mary Ellen Foti, MD, says the project's goal is to develop "best practices" in end-of-life care for people with serious and persistent mental illness.
Web site: http://www.umassmed.edu/endoflifecare/
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Promoting Excellence in End-of-Life Care is a national program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation dedicated to long-term changes in health care institutions to substantially improve care for dying people and their families. Visit PromotingExcellence.org for more resources.