Georgia-based Hospice Satilla has opened a new bereavement center in Waycross in its home state. The James Carl Jones, Jr. Family Center is named for a local business leader and philanthropist.
The new 1,840-square-foot facility features a large conference and education room, a well as private counseling space. Through the center, Hospice Satilla will provide in-person grief services, classes and workshops for family caregivers, support groups, public education, disease-specific programs and individual grief counseling.
The organization has provided bereavement care since its inception, but as it grew they realized the community would benefit from a dedicated space.
“We’ve always provided the services, but we often had to wait until after-hours to provide the bereavement care in our offices and in our hospice house. We would have to put up and tear down tables and chairs to make an area for people to meet,” said Debra Golden, executive director of Hospice Satilla. “When someone is grieving they need a nice calm, comfortable place to receive that support.”
Hospice Satilla serves 320 patients annually in eight Georgia counties, primarily in rural communities. The hospice purchased and renovated the building used to house the bereavement center mostly through philanthropic dollars, including a sizable donation from the family of the facility’s namesake. The cost exceeded $270,000.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires hospice providers to offer bereavement counseling for a minimum of 13 months following a patient’s death, but hospices tend to go above and beyond by making grief care available to their entire communities.
The need for bereavement care has grown substantially due to losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than half a million lives in the United States alone. The pandemic has also complicated hospices’ ability to provide those services, due to the need for social distancing.
Hospices have had to cancel in-person counseling sessions, meetings with families as well as support groups and other services to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus. With few other options, many are turning to telehealth systems to support grieving families.
Hospice Satilla has had a similar experience, having conducted many of its bereavement care services via Zoom during 2020 and early 2021. While continuing to take precautions, the organization is beginning to re-open some in-person services.
“We’re limiting the amount of people that come at one time and taking steps to ensure people remain six feet apart,” Golden told Hospice News. “We do temperature checks and ask questions in compliance with the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)] guidelines.”
In February, Hospice Satilla became affiliated with Alivia Care. Alivia Care came into existence last year when Florida’s Community Hospice & Palliative Care rebranded into a larger company with a wider range of services. Alivia is poised to launch home health care programs, private duty nursing services, personal care, PACE programs and advanced care management.
The network that Alivia is building is distinct from traditional acquisitions. In this model, hospices like Satilla can join Alivia as members, maintaining their own license, board and keeping their corporate entity intact.
“With the changing climate in the industry and changes that are coming in Medicare, [the affiliation] makes us stronger,” Golden said. “We’re still nonprofit. We’re still run by our individual board. It just makes sense that we would affiliate with them;, it only enhances the care that we provide.”