From My Window… HopeWest-Meeker great for elderly, families; gas prices plunge

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
HopeWest from Grand Junction and Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker held a joint fundraiser for HopeWest-Meeker on Saturday night with the HopeWest/Pioneers Medical Center’s soon-to-open palliative care program gaining more start-up funds for the Meeker-based program.
The two entities will begin a palliative care program for those in the Meeker area, and the plan is to be open by the end of December. In the plan, Pioneers Medical Center will provide staff, equipment and office space. HopeWest will provide training and oversight for the program.
The HopeWest-Meeker program will mirror the HopeWest Transitions Palliative Care program running since 1994 in Grand Junction.
HopeWest’s experience with this program is quite extensive. The company has significant quality and outcome records and has achieved an effective staffing model that allows for collaboration across agencies and reduces duplication of effort.
The palliative care route was chosen as it has fewer regulatory burdens than operating a Medicare hospice team in such a remote location and a full hospice program would be cost prohibitive, officials from both agencies said.
For those who don’t know what palliative care is, it is there for those who are very ill and/or dying. The care is generally given at home and is steered to help make the last days of the patient more comfortable and to give the home caregivers, who are often family members, tips on taking good care of the patient with a minimum of stress.
The goals of the project, as stated on a project synopsis, are: improving the health of persons with advancing serious illness and the frail elderly; and to enhance the care and illness experience of these individual and their caregivers through expert, appropriate care accessible “around the clock.”
The palliative care staff also assists the supporting family members or caregivers who are, on occasion, unable to do so alone or because the supporter or supporters need a break.
This will be done without cost because the actual staffers in Meeker who will all be qualified care volunteers on the staff at Pioneers Medical Center, are volunteering their time and energy.
This palliative care program is not only vital to the patient, who doesn’t want to die in the hospital, but it is most important to the care-giving family members.
The palliative care providers work with the family on ways to cope with the upcoming death of the patient but also with how to take care of the patient and make them as comfortable until they die — without wearing out the family members.
The program has been a couple of years in the planning between HopeWest and Pioneers Medical Center.
When the idea came up, it was agreed that Meeker could not possibly justify a full hospice center. But, according to Pioneers Medical Center CEO Ken Harman, further digging turned up that palliative care might just be possible.
The keys to the program was that Pioneers Medical Center form a staff of qualified volunteers from the hospital staff, provide office equipment and office space.
Between the HopeWest oversight and training and Pioneers’ space, office equipment and staffing the care will come — without needed compensation.
Full medical care, as provided by doctors, etc., will still need to be paid for by the patient, their insurance company or by Medicare, but the palliative care will be free to the patient and caregivers.
Complete annual cost for the program is estimated to be $81,150. Those costs are $13,000 for office space, $1,000 for phone, $2,500 for laptop computers, $2,900 for start-up training and education, $58,250 for staff and personnel, $3,000 for marketing materials and $500 for office supplies.
Funds have been procured or are expected through a $25,000 Pioneers Medical Center cash match; $15,000 in Pioneers in-kind match; $2,500 as HopeWest’s in-kind match; $30,000 through an anonymous grant and $9,000 in additional donations and grants.
There is no easy way to put it, but there are many elderly residents in the Meeker area and not all families have the ability to take care of their loved ones without some kind of assistance, be it emotional or physical.
This program will help all concerned, and it should be most welcome in the area. It is very rare for a community of this small size to have any kind of end-of-life care locally.
In the long run, the palliative care program will serve more area residents than one can even imagine.
This project is definitely deserving of community support, and thanks should go out to the visionaries at HopeWest and Pioneers Medical Center for having the forethought and grit to see if such a program could exist and prosper here.

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Let this just serve as a last-minute reminder that Tuesday is Election Day.
This election, however, all ballots must have been returned to the election office by mail by 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
If you mail your ballots on Tuesday, your vote will not count. I repeat. The ballot has to be in to the election office by 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Unbeknownst to many folks in Rio Blanco County, however, if you have lost your ballot or if you don’t want to mail it, you can still cast a vote the more traditional way — at the Rio Blanco County Clerk’s Office in Meeker or Rangely (See story on Page 1).
This is a particularly important election for our Rio Blanco County schools as the school-related funding measures will all directly affect the Rangely and Meeker school districts.
In addition to the marijuana-tax-related measures on the ballot, the Meeker and Rangely school board elections will be decided with this ballot as will the school funding measures — the statewide Amendment 66 and the Meeker-affecting Initiative 3A.
The Rangely and Meeker school boards each voted to reject Amendment 66 because of too many unanswered questions and the possibility that the measure, which totally reconfigures the state school funding formula, also produces the risk that some school districts will not receive the full amount they have been receiving for the past couple years, when funding has been plummeting from the state anyway.
In addition, the funds in Amendment 66 would be raised through an increase in personal income tax, which has in recent years been shown to be the least-preferred type of tax hike out there.
The Meeker School District is pushing for Initiative 3A, which raises property taxes by a small amount. The district will directly collect all of the revenue raised through Initiative 3A and the district will be able to decide where the money is most needed.
The Herald Times endorses Initiative 3A for Meeker School District voters and joins the Rangely and Meeker school districts in rejecting Amendment 66.
But, remember. None of it will matter if you don’t vote — and get your ballot in by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, regardless of whether you mail it or vote at the Rio Blanco County Clerk’s Office, or the voter service and polling centers (VSPCs).

By the way, gasoline prices are continuing to plunge around most of Colorado.
According to Channel 4 News in Denver on Tuesday, the average price of gasoline at the pump in Colorado is $3.23 while the lowest prices in Denver, Boulder, Centennial and Aurora range from $3.09 to $3.17.
Channel 9 News announced Tuesday morning that the gas station with the lowest price for regular in Colorado is a station in Commerce City. The price there is (no joke) $2.84 per gallon.
The network also announced that the price of gasoline could drop from 15 to 30 cents more before Christmas, which would put possibly all Front Range prices to below $3 per gallon.
Wouldn’t it be a nice holiday present to wake up to similar prices on Christmas Day … or sooner?