New Organization to Advocate for Quality End-of-Life Care

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The new Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) will be the first national organization of its kind that unites social work professionals, consumers, and stakeholder organizations in the field of hospice, palliative and end-of-life care. Governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors, SWHPN's activities also will include development of web resources for patients, families, and professionals. For more information about SWHPN, please visit http://www.swhpn.org.

The new Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) will be the first national organization of its kind that unites social work professionals, consumers, and stakeholder organizations in the field of hospice, palliative and end-of-life care.

"Planning an effective network has been a two-year project, and the results are exciting," says Grace Christ, DSW, Professor of Social Work at Columbia University, former Director of the Social Work Leadership Development Awards Program and SWHPN's first Board Chairperson.

The foundation for SWHPN was laid when a group of distinguished social workers and interdisciplinary leaders came together in Washington, D.C., at the 2nd Social Work Summit on End-of-Life Care.

This three-day conference in 2005, funded by the Open Society Institute's Project on Death in America, with support from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Association of Social Workers, developed a Steering Committee whose primary charge was to investigate the forming of a much needed organization. In June of 2007 New Jersey Health Decisions (NJHD), a state-based non-profit, restructured and joined with SWHPN to broaden its scope.

"Our mandate is to help individuals and their families make better informed decisions, increase awareness of psychosocial services at the close of life, advance excellence in care, and represent the public interest in shaping all levels of policy related to these issues," comments Gary L. Stein, JD, MSW, the organization's Vice Chair and former Executive Director of New Jersey Health Decisions. Stein also is an Associate Professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University, and brings a substantial background in biomedical ethics to the new organization.

"We seek to update social work education, research, policy and practice to reflect Americans' changing views with regard to the quality of care for seriously ill and dying individuals and their bereaved family and friends," says Sherri Weisenfluh, LCSW, MSW, Associate Vice President of Counseling Services at Hospice of the Bluegrass and Social Work Section Leader of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

"This is a social work network that we expect will grow. We also will partner with other end-of-life organizations to expand our influence," says Judy Peres, LCSW-C. Peres has developed major national health policy initiatives to improve end-of-life care while working with Last Acts, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded campaign. Peres is the SWHPN Board Secretary.

Governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors, SWHPN's activities also will include development of web resources for patients, families, and professionals. For more information about SWHPN, please visit http://www.swhpn.org.

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