State Advisory Councils Work to Improve Palliative Care Awareness, Access
Jacqueline M. Kocinski, MPP, and Jordan Endicott, JD
Increasingly, stakeholders are confronting state-level public policy proposals that hold the potential to have an impact on the care of patients with serious illness or influence the field of hospice and palliative medicine (HPM). In many cases—whether combatting efforts to restrict opioid prescribing or end-of-life decision-making or responding to proposals to legalize physician-assisted death or medical marijuana—HPM providers often find themselves on the defensive, looking for ways to advance the needs of patients and families in the public policy debate. In a number of states, however, these stakeholders have found a way to proactively promote the value of palliative care and its role in improving quality of life for the growing population of individuals living with serious or complex chronic illness: legislation establishing state palliative care advisory councils.
More than 20 states have now considered—and 15 (AL, CT, GA, IL, IN, MA, MD, ME, MO, NH, NJ, NY, OK, OR, TX) have enacted—legislation creating an interdisciplinary palliative care advisory council, with the majority using a model bill crafted in 2012 by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. Promoting access to palliative care is a key advocacy goal for ACS CAN as part of its national campaign to improve patient quality of life. The typical council is housed within a state department of health and charged with developing a palliative care information and education program targeting consumers and professionals, along with a palliative care access initiative, by which the council works to establish a system for identifying residents who could benefit from palliative care and facilitating access to appropriate services.