If there has ever been a year when “hope” should be a theme, it has been 2020, right? Wow. This year has truly been a defining one in our lifetimes. So many losses and so much sickness. For those of you who have lost a loved one during this time, and I know there are many, my heart aches for you.
This is the time of year that I send to you the highlights of the year – our achievements, our needs, and our dreams of the future. This year there is one over-arching achievement: showing up. Showing up with courage and overcoming fear with faith instead of despair, with optimism instead of dread.
This year more than 400 remarkable staff and over a thousand volunteers sustained care and hope to more than 2,000 individuals. That could have only happened with the “wind beneath our wings” – yo
I have often said that if people are short on faith, they should hang with me for just a day to witness all of the miracles that surround the work of HopeWest. This year is no exception.
For example, in the beginning of the year we suffered the effects of unexpected cuts in Medicare funding that made our financial health look pretty bleak. Then, with the onset of COVID-19, we were cancelling fundraising events right and left, closed both Spoons bistro & bakery and the Heirlooms stores, and started wondering if we literally could stay afloat.
But “poof” our Board Members got busy. They made sure we were aware of help like the Payroll Protection Program under the CARES Act – and then jumped in with both feet to make it happen for HopeWest. Remarkably, Medicare provided some COVID-19 relief funding. We began to have hearings on the hundreds of denied Medicare claims that we had challenged – and we prevailed in 100% of the cases thanks to the extraordinary talent of our physicians and Quality Department staff. Suddenly, we knew we would survive. That’s a pretty big miracle!
But that wasn’t enough. How would we ever make up for the $1.5 million in revenue from events that had to be cancelled. It seemed impossible! But that didn’t stop our “never daunted” development team, who rapidly adapted, communicated, and creatively came up with new solutions – not only for funding but entertainment. A miracle for certain!
Okay, whew. Now turn to all of the new programs on the horizon designed to enable HopeWest to stay independent, yet financially viable as hospice revenue from Medicare dwindles more and more each year.
Enter the next miracle… solid leadership! Totally unexpectedly a leader with more than a decade of successful PACE leadership walked through our front door, along with someone who comes with decades of long term care experience, and a project manager “bar none.” These folks are the PACE dream team! Most people don’t understand that, unlike any other program start up, opening PACE has all of the complexity of becoming an insurance company. Every PACE program operates essentially as an insurance company as well as a provider of services. But finally, here we go. We anticipate opening in the Spring of 2021. It has been a labor of love like no other, but miraculously we will prevail. Our generous campaign donors raised the $8.5 million necessary for us to complete the Bacon Center for Living Your Best and are now engaged in our final fundraising campaign to secure the startup costs for the program itself. Faith, hope, and gratitude – all words that describe this HopeWest effort.
Speaking of gratitude… we are so appreciative of our relationship with Rocky Mountain Health Plans and their wonderful new Medicare and Medicaid Advantage plans. We are working collaboratively on supporting their enrollees, which brings new activity to our clinic and provider staff.
All of our new endeavors are exciting, but the most inspiring work this year has been provided by our tireless, compassionate staff and volunteers despite this extraordinary COVID-19 environment. The everyday stories I hear are vivid examples of what our community of supporters make possible through the steadfast compassion of the special people doing this work of the heart.
To sum it up, you, our supporters, make things happen that just plain “never would” without HopeWest.
More and more people are falling between the cracks of our health care system. For example, people who used to be eligible for programs like home health, hospitalizations, or long-term care now are no longer eligible. Many people served by our palliative care programs are not eligible for programs paid for by insurance. Often people are in our Ferris Hospice Care Center who cannot remain safely at home, cannot be in the hospital and cannot be in a nursing home – and insurance will not pay for inpatient hospice care at our Care Center either. Others have needs that have never really been addressed by the traditional health care system, like both children and adults who need professional support through their grief.
This month, I was invited to be on the podcast of actor Brad Garrett (Robert on Everybody Loves Raymond). You might want to catch it on YouTube HERE. He described hospice workers as people who wear their heart on their sleeve and have iron fists. I think that is exactly right. None better exemplifies this than our inpatient hospice workers.
Our staff working in the Ferris Care Center (named this year after the generous Ferris family) have remade physical space, donned outfits more elaborate than spacesuits, and somehow have sustained their compassion with courage and fortitude. Almost every day I hear about the poignant stories that unfold there – from the wedding of a young adult patient complete with gown and tuxedo to a recent visit by a patient’s beloved horse, who was brought right up to the patio of our patient’s room. Something like this happens every single day. Somehow the staff and the volunteers move through the sadness and the fear to bring smiles and joy into the lives of people facing life’s biggest event.
Sustaining hope for children in an age of isolation and fear of the unknown has been a hallmark of the work of our remarkable counselors and social workers in the HopeWest Kids programs in each of the communities we serve.
Our kids are really suffering. This year our staff reports dealing with escalating grief in children who have experienced death loss due to suicide, accidents, and alcohol. These are complicated losses to get through and our master’s-prepared staff with decades of specialized training and experience have been amazing in adapting our programs and continuing to provide essential mental health services to children individually, virtually, and in some small, safe groups. Over 515 kids have received support so far this year.
When cancer or some other serious illness leaps out of nowhere and strikes someone you love, where do you turn? You know you are not ready for hospice, but you have so many questions and wish there was someone to call who doesn’t mind hearing from you in the middle of the night. That’s where our palliative care programs come in. Hospice & Palliative Care programs provided at home or in a nursing home or assisted living community have never been more challenging than during the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. Staff have leapt over their fears. And they have suffered countless inconveniences, like showering in a janitor’s closet immediately after seeing a nursing home patient who is COVID-positive before going to see their next patient.
More than 2,500 patients and their loved ones have received care in the last year and for each and every one, it has been that family’s scariest time. We have provided both in-person care and visits by telemedicine. Our volunteers continued to see their patients by screening both the patient and family before visiting. We have supported our nursing home and assisted living partners through several major crises, such as active COVID-19 cases and severe staffing shortages. They have been often unsung heroes during this time.
We have had a tough year but we are grateful for the oh so many blessings we have received. Today there are those among us who have no where to sleep. They are hungry. There are problems people face that are serious. In the midst of that people every day are facing the pain and crises of end of life so we must press on. Your help means the world to our ability to keep steadfast.
We know that we are placed on this earth to help each other. Life is defined by how we answer that call. We always see HopeWest as being simply the vehicle to help people care for each other. Every gift improves the life of not only the receiver, but the giver. Now is the time for our community to come together. If you are one of the thousands of people who have already helped us this year, Thank You. If you can give again, we’d be supremely grateful. If you are able at this time to become one of those givers, we invite you to join us.
My wish for each of you is that you have a blessed holiday season with hearts full from knowing how much you are appreciated and loved. While the traditions of coming together and gifting will be different this year, I pray you take the opportunity to find new ways of filling your spirit with joy and meaning.
With fond appreciation,
President and CEO