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Partners in Care selected for year-long collaborative

Nancy Symons

NANCY SYMONS, executive director from Partners in Care, is thrilled that the palliative care organization is a recipient of a California Health Care Foundation learning collaborative. Democrat file photo by Shelly Thorene

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From page B4 | March 06, 2013 | Leave Comment

They might be small, but they have something to offer the big boys — how to successfully run a non-profit support program for those suffering with life-threatening conditions or serious illness.

Partners in Care has been selected by the California Health Care Foundation as one of 20 state-wide palliative care organizations to be part of a year-long learning collaborative.

“When I heard about the opportunity, I wasn’t sure that a small, rural group would be considered,” said Partners in Care Executive Director Nancy Symons, “but when the California Health Care Foundation heard that we were non-profit, that we discharge people from services when they are doing very well and that the average length of stay on PIC is a year, they were amazed and told me that PIC has a lot to offer.”

The Palliative Care Action Community is a new collaborative of health care organizations that will meet to support and sustain existing efforts to build effective, sustainable, community-based palliative care services.

“It’s like a mini-think tank of stakeholders who will work on better serving people with serious illness,” said Symons.

A three person team — Dr. Kenneth Stemmle, Elisa Kopitzke and Symons — will represent PIC in the collaborative which includes Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Kaiser Permanente Northern California Region, UCLA Medical Center, University of California, San Francisco and the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills.

Symons said one of the things the group will likely do is to create a uniform definitive of palliative care. Community-based palliative care is a moving target with no single definition,” said Symons. “A lot of people confuse palliative care with hospice care, but they are not the same.”

Palliative care aims to relieve suffering and improve the quality of life for patients with advanced illness. It is offered simultaneously with all other appropriate medical treatment.

Partners in Care fills the gap between a diagnosis and hospice end-of-life care and offers its services free of charge.

“With the Affordable Care Act, there is a strong push to focus on better outcomes and how to help people at home better manage illness and get connected to resources,” said Symons.

PIC’s community based focus helps people with serious illness, teaching them how to manage the illness, connecting them to community resources, minimizing symptoms and  providing emotional and spiritual support.

One of the benefits PIC hopes to receive from the collaboration is help to become more sustainable.

“We work very diligently to keep our funding going,” said Symons. “We use grants, fund-raisers and donations to keep going, but it’s miraculous that we’ve survived 12 years.”

One of the things that makes PIC unique in the palliative care world, said Symons, is that the founders were able to develop the program according to the needs of the community, rather than being part of a larger organization that might direct the development according to the bottom line.

To better ensure sustainability, Symons is also hoping to learn how PIC can better measure outcomes.

“We want to serve in the best way possible and also to demonstrate our value in measurable ways which will help with funding,” Symons said.

Feeling better physically, emotionally and spiritually can be a hard thing to measure, but it’s one of the goals of PIC.

“I m thrilled that we’ll be able to know what others in the field are doing and to work with leaders in the field to pave the way for good palliative care models,” said Symons.

With their involvement in the collaborative and for the work PIC does, Symons said, “We’re getting recognition outside El Dorado County for what we do.”

When a group from PIC went to Hospice of Blue Grass in Kentucky for training, they found that PIC was already known there and that the Hospice people wondered how they made a non-profit commununity-based palliative care work.

“It’s our community that makes this work,” said Symons. “People are taking notice that El Dorado County has something special. We will be working on El Dorado County’s behalf to learn the best practices and bring them back to the community.”

For more information about Partners in Care,  its thrift store, or about the Annual Spirit of Benny 10K/5K Fun Run and Walk, a PIC fundraiser on Saturday, March 23 call 530-344-0700 or visit its Website at partnersincareplacerville.org.

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or wschultz@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.

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