Legislation Would Establish Statewide Palliative & Hospice Care Information & Education Program

In an effort to ensure that the public, health care providers, and health care facilities receive comprehensive and accurate information and education about palliative care and terminal illness, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin, Herb Conaway, Jr., MD, Thomas Giblin, Jamel Holley, Joseph Danielsen, Raj Mukherji and Benjie Wimberly was approved 75-0-1 Thursday by the full Assembly.
The bill (A-312) would establish the “Palliative Care and Hospice Care Consumer and Professional Information and Education Program” in the Department of Health (DOH). It will require all facilities identified by the Commissioner of Health to provide information about appropriate palliative care and hospice care services to patients and residents with a serious illness.
“Given that the state’s population is aging, with greater incidence of cancer and a higher prevalence of chronic conditions, the demand for high quality hospice and palliative care services will undoubtedly increase,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex).
“Palliative care optimizes a patient’s quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering caused by serious illness,” said Conaway (D-Burlington).  “It’s a compassionate approach to treatment that we should be promoting for the benefit of New Jersey families.”
“With palliative care, a patient often receives comprehensive pain and symptom management, as well as discussions on treatment options that are appropriate to the individual, such as hospice care,” said Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic).  “It’s important that we promote these benefits.”
“Palliative care has become an increasingly important part of treatment because it often involves addressing physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs,” said Holley (D-Union).  “Equally important, it also helps ensure a patient’s autonomy and their access to information and choice.”
“Hospice care is comprehensive in nature because it coordinates care between a home setting, as well as with outpatient and inpatient services,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset).  “Given the delicate nature of this end-of-life situation, it’s important that we provide patients and families with the resources necessary to cope.”
“Hospice care is critical in meeting the physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and other special needs that are experienced during the final stages of illness, dying, and bereavement,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson).  “We need to ensure that more families are aware of this important option.”
“Through a medically directed interdisciplinary team, hospice care provides services to patients and their families,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic).  “This targeted type of care is critical to a patient’s overall well-being when dealing with life-threatening illnesses.”
Under the bill, the Commissioner of Health may require a facility that fails to comply with these requirements to provide a plan of action to bring the facility into compliance.  In implementing these requirements, DOH would be required to take into account the size of the facility; access and proximity to palliative care and hospice care services, including the availability of hospice and palliative care board-certified practitioners and related workforce staff; geographic factors; and any other factors that may impact the ability of a hospital, nursing home, or facility to comply.
Additionally, the bill establishes the Palliative Care and Hospice Care Advisory Council within DOH.  In collaboration with the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the council would be charged with implementing the provisions of the bill, developing the information to be provided to patients and residents by hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities and facilitating the provision of this information, and developing resources and programs to facilitate access to palliative care and hospice care services for patients and residents.
The council shall be comprised of 11 members, to be appointed as follows: one member of the Senate appointed by the Senate President; one member of the General Assembly appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly; three public members appointed by the Senate President; three public members appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly; and three public members appointed by the Governor. The public members should be individuals who have experience, training, or academic background in issues related to the provision of palliative care or hospice care.
The bill will now head to the Senate for further consideration.