Palliative Care Advisory Council Gains Momentum

Efforts to create a Palliative Care Advisory Council in Wisconsin are gaining momentum in the state legislature.

Palliative care – a team-based approach focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of serious illness – can improve quality of life for cancer patients and their families. “It’s not just hospice,” explained Sara Sahli, Wisconsin government relations director for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “The phrase we use is, ‘any age, any stage.’”

Across the country, more than 92 percent of patients and caregivers say they would want this kind of integrated care if they or their loved ones were sick. But access in Wisconsin is uneven, as not all hospitals offer palliative care programs, and the workforce suffers from a shortage of palliative care specialists.

An event last month at the state Capitol, titled Palliative Care 101, introduced legislators and their staff to the importance of palliative care and how an advisory council could improve access and outcomes for patients across Wisconsin. The event drew more than 80 attendees and featured Dr. Toby Campbell, Chief of Palliative Care at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and Dr. Tim Jessick, board certified palliative care physician and chair of the Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin (PCNOW).

Twenty states have created palliative care councils – comprised of experts from throughout the state who work together to identify barriers to palliative care, increase public and provider awareness of palliative care and its benefits, and recommend solutions to policymakers.

In Wisconsin, a bill to appoint a 20-member palliative care council is being pursued by Rep. Ken Skowronski (R-Franklin). The bill could be introduced within the next few weeks, with hopes for passage in late 2017 or early 2018.

In addition to ACS CAN, other groups supporting this bill include AARP and the Alzheimers Association. PCNOW and other palliative care experts are also involved in planning for this effort.

The creation of a state advisory council would complement efforts at the federal level to support palliative care workforce development, research, and public awareness efforts. The Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (known as “PCHETA”) has been introduced three times but is gaining bipartisan support.

This fact sheet from ACS CAN offers a helpful primer on the effort to create a Palliative Care Advisory Council in Wisconsin.