Weather Forecast


Willmar and Olivia among cities picked for palliative care initiative

WILLMAR -- Willmar and Olivia are among 10 cities selected for a new statewide initiative to help design and strengthen palliative care programs in rural communities.

The project, led by Stratis Health, aims to increase the level of palliative care to people living in rural Minnesota.

Over the next 18 months, teams from each of the 10 participating towns will be learning about palliative care and how to develop local programs that can work successfully in a rural setting.

"We want to explore options and opportunities to bring this to the forefront in our communities," said Nancy Stratman, administrator of the Rice Care Center and a member of the team representing Willmar.

Experts believe it's long overdue.

Seven out of 10 deaths in the United States are due to chronic disease, yet there's a shortage of palliative care services that could help these people manage their symptoms and maintain quality of life.

The gap is especially acute in rural areas and in nursing homes, where models for effective palliative care lag behind urban areas.

Palliative care is similar to hospice care in that it focuses on relieving symptoms, providing emotional support for patients and families and coordinating care among multiple providers and settings.

Unlike hospice, however, which concentrates on end-of-life care, palliative care can be offered at any point during a serious or chronic illness -- including alongside treatment intended to be curative.

Stratman sees it as an option, for instance, for someone who has kidney disease or congestive heart failure.

Many of these people might be living long term with their illness, she said. "How do you manage the psychosocial component and all of those issues?"

It's the goal of the Stratis Health initiative to develop models of rural palliative care that can eventually be replicated across Minnesota and nationwide.

Thirty-five communities applied for the project. Of the 10 that were selected, only two -- Red Wing and Staples -- currently have a palliative care program.

The first learning session for team members is Nov. 20 in St. Cloud. There'll be two more sessions over the next 18 months. The project will end with an outcomes congress, during which key lessons and accomplishments will be shared.