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Opinion: Generous donations have stepped up to purchase and reopen the former hospice in Southwest Portland.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Then front of the Hopewell House that is expected to be sold next year.Almost 13 months ago, Dr. Ira Byock and I published an article in STATNews titled "Hopewell House Has Closed. You Should Care About That." We wrote about the closing of Portland, Oregon's, only inpatient hospice house. Our article paid homage to a facility, which first opened in 1989 and that had attended the death of 10,000 Portlanders while caring for another 9,000 who returned home to die after Hopewell had adequately controlled previously intractable symptoms.

Last November, we had never heard of the coronavirus. Since then, the virus is closing in on 300,000 American deaths. It has become the leading cause of death in the United States and ravaged the funding of state and local governments. The idea of "coming to the rescue" of an inpatient hospice seemed like it could fall victim to the virus.

So, the question became "could Hopewell House be saved?" The vision was for a pioneering, new hospice under a different financial model not governed by all of the JCAHO and CMS rules (editor's note: The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health care Organizations, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.). Or, should those of us in Portland give up on having an inpatient hospice facility in our fair city, The City of Roses? There was no guarantee that we could reopen Hopewell House. In fact, that quest seemed quixotic, dreamlike, maybe impossible. But beginning in 2019, and working throughout 2020, a group of dedicated Portlanders led by the original founder of the house, Joan Strong Buell, created a nonprofit entity, Friends of Hopewell House, whose sole goal was raising the funds to reopen Hopewell House as a hospice-only residential care facility. The effort was inspired by a group in Medford, Oregon, who opened Celia's House, an inpatient hospice facility in 2016. That facility continues to have excellent success providing exemplary care.

With the type of community-driven effort that was abundantly present at the beginning of the hospice "movement," I'm happy to report that Friends of Hopewell House have so far received three significant financial contributions. A generous $1 million donation was made by the locally based Marcia H. Randall Foundation and two $500,000 donations have been given by prominent Portlanders. One is from Priscilla Bernard Wieden and Dan Wieden (of Wieden + Kennedy, a successful Portland-based advertising agency with offices globally). The Wiedens' gift inspired Marcia Randall to come forward with her donation and, most recently, a third $500,000 donation came in from a well-known local real estate developer and philanthropist, Joe Weston. All three angel donors had deep connections with hospice care.?Priscilla Wieden was a volunteer at Hopewell House and her firsthand experience motivated her gift.? Marcia Randall had a friend die at the house, inspiring her to learn more and Joe Weston had a brother who died under hospice care.

This month, Friends of Hopewell House made a well-received first bid on the building, which is set on over 4.5 acres. The group has the organizational infrastructure to do everything necessary once they own the building and is fully prepared to implement all relevant state regulations and operating plans for the new Hopewell House.

Should all move forward, the 12-bed facility will offer 10 private rooms and ample space to accommodate loved ones. It will be open to a diverse population inclusive of all races, religions, sexualities, financial resources and ages.

Friends of Hopewell House has worked with Celia's House to develop innovative sources of funding, which include bed-day grants through hospital programs and a Medicaid funding increase in Oregon for patients at the end of life.

It will not be the standard GIP model. (general inpatient care.) Given the current regulatory climate, and the profit motive in for-profit hospice programs, the GIP model of hospice care may, itself, be 'on hospice.' The new Hopewell House will work collaboratively with Medicare-certified hospice providers and will be staffed with 24/7 RN's, CNAs (registered nurses and certified nursing assistants) and volunteers who are specifically trained in end-of-life care, mindful caregiving and conscious dying.

The reopened Hopewell House will also be a source for education and research, providing death-positive education and community outreach programs for the Portland metro area and beyond. The organization will partner with universities to conduct studies in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) at end of life, as well as offering a wide range of integrative and non-pharmacological treatment strategies to manage symptoms and relieve suffering. The goal is to holistically serve the emotional, spiritual, medical and familial needs of residents.

Medical professionals and volunteers trained and experienced in hospice care will be ready and willing at a moment's notice to collaborate at the bedside with hospice care teams. As evidenced by the Celia House model, Friends of Hopewell House believes that the reopened Hopewell House will be able to care for 95% to 100% of the 'hospice ICU' problems.

Friends of Hopewell House are still in need of financial contributions to ensure their vision can be fully realized. Donations can be made via their GoFundMe campaign at gofundme.com/f/savehopewellhouse.

Every gift given will support the singular vision of what Hopewell House can be again: a beautiful home providing peace and dignity for the dying as well as solace for their families.

Dr. Eric Walsh is an emeritus professor at OHSU, now retired, and working as a board member for Friends of Hopewell House.


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