Suncoast PACE Director: Partner with Hospice to Support Aging in Place

In addition to fulfilling his primary mission as executive director of Suncoast PACE a program of all-inclusive care for the elderly — Jason Pettry is forging ahead with a close partnership with sister company Suncoast Hospice to ensure smooth transitions of care when patients reach the end of life. 

The PACE program was launched in 2009 under different ownership. In 2012 the program was acquired by Suncoast Hospice. Today, the PACE and hospice programs operate separately as affiliates under the banner of parent company Empath Health. The coordination of care between PACE and hospice is designed to ensure patients receive a full suite of services to help them age in place. 

Pettry sat down with Hospice News to discuss how PACE and hospice can work together as well as his plans for growing the program. 

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How does Suncoast PACE collaborate with Suncoast Hospice and how do their respective services complement one another?

The beauty about our specific program is we have a relationship with hospice that allows a participant to access the hospice benefit, but they don’t have to leave PACE. 

Patients still have access to every service that a Medicare hospice patient would receive, but we pay for it. They can still stay under the PACE umbrella if they choose. We can’t take in patients who are already in hospice, but if a member of our program reaches the point where they need hospice care they can continue to receive both services.

It really provides that seamless transition of care. We are there to help them not only medically, but also psychosocially. There is a very personalized transition of care, and then we stay in constant communication with hospice. Our care teams and their care teams will stay in touch.  

We make daily visits to check and address and family needs. When the end of life is imminent, then we really focus on the psychosocial and the bereavement care and ensuring that families have everything they need to be able to cope. It’s a partnership to every degree.

Does your program facilitate any end-of-life discussions or advanced care planning?

Absolutely. That starts at enrollment — as soon as they start talking about enrolling our program, and we determine that they’re eligible to come on our program. Those [end-of-life] talks are happening both with our intake department and then immediately with the social workers.

Participants’ advanced directives get updated at every biannual assessment. And then of course, they’re brought up if there’s any kind of change of status or change in care needs. We are heavily involved in helping participants and families make those decisions.

Could you describe some of the services that are available at the center?

Our program is all inclusive, including medical care. We have a medical clinic and an adult daycare center that offers a robust set of activities. We do things like reiki and exercise classes, dental care, and a full therapy suite that includes physical therapy and occupational therapy and speech therapy. 

We have all kinds of home care services, everything from homemaking to wound care in the home. We provide all the transportation for anything medical, and we work with private duty to provide those home care services as necessary. We contract with a robust number of providers in the community to get them access to any service they would need.

We really wrap our arms around our participants to make sure that they are able to thrive in the community and age in place. The goal of PACE programs is really to keep the elderly and the aging population out of nursing homes and facilities and hospitals. 

What are your some of your goals for the PACE program?

My goal is to grow this program and our mission. Right now we are operating in one county, and that’s where our regulations keep us. But we’re certainly looking to the future of growing not only in Pinellas County, but also going to other surrounding counties and beyond that, throughout the state. We want to be able to provide health care to as much of the population as possible.

What are some of the strategies you are implementing to grow the program?

We’re looking at alternative care sites within Pinellas County. Right now we have one center, and we’re looking at the possibility of opening other care sites to expand into the southern and northern parts of the county.
We will still be operating in our same county but will provide a little more accessible care to those people in those communities.

The other big strategy is lobbying with the state and joining forces with other programs in the state to rally for what PACE is about and show the state the benefits of opening funding and continue to allow PACE programs to grow. 

What outcome would you like to see with your advocacy with the state?

The state determines how many slots we are allowed to have, and right now we are at our maximum. We would like to see them opening up more funding to allow for more slots and allow us to grow. It’s a battle with all the PACE programs are up against, and the more slots we have, the more people we can serve in this community. Our main goal is demonstrating the quality of care and what PACE has to offer, and that in the long run we can save the state money.

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