New plan details how Kansas will combat palliative care challenges

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Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 2:26 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A new 5-year plan details how the state is set to combat the workforce shortage and better educate Kansans on their palliative care options.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced on Thursday, March 30, that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has released the Sunflower State’s new comprehensive 5-year Palliative Care State Plan. She said the plan is a blueprint for how the state can better deliver care to improve the quality of life and mitigate suffering for those with serious and often terminal illnesses.

Gov. Kelly said the new plan includes proposals to deliver timely care to rural Kansans, bolster the healthcare workforce and increase public awareness so Kansans can make informed decisions about treatment.

Kelly indicated that thousands of residents could benefit from palliative care each year, however, the state ranks 42nd out of 51 (including Washington, D.C.) in access to the service. Examples of diagnoses appropriate for palliative care include:

  • Advanced dementia
  • Cancer
  • Chronic obstructive lung disease
  • Genetic disorders
  • Perinatal conditions
  • Heart conditions
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neurological disorders

The Governor said palliative care is appropriate for patients of any age or stage of illness and can accompany curative treatment.

“My administration is focused on improving the quality of life for Kansans at every stage of life, and the key to that is improving understanding of and access to palliative care,” Kelly said. “The Palliative Care State Plan provides a comprehensive guide for how our state ease suffering at scale.”

Kelly noted that the 2022-2027 Palliative Care State Plan is the product of a partnership between KDHE, the Palliative Care Quality of Life Interdisciplinary Advisory Council, the Kansas Cancer Partnership and other palliative care experts.

“Many people in Kansas would benefit from Palliative care but don’t know about it,” KDHE Secretary Janet Stanek said. “This state plan will help serve as a guideline to ensure that all Kansas families facing serious illness have the information and opportunity to obtain high-quality medical care that aligns with their unique circumstances and values.”

The Governor indicated that other recommendations include:

  • Expansion of broadband services and preservation of policy changes to deliver telehealth services essential to delivering timely palliative care for all Kansans, including those in rural and frontier communities.
  • Incentive programs to recruit, train and retain highly skilled palliative care clinicians; education on primary palliative care for all disciplines; and enhanced support for unpaid caregivers to address the palliative care workforce shortages.
  • Efforts to engage and inform residents about palliative care to improve understanding and acceptance of palliative care and how it is different from hospice.
  • Efforts to bring advanced care planning and serious illness care planning to scale across care settings so residents are well-informed and can express their wishes, values and treatment preferences ahead of treatment plan development.

For more information about palliative care and resources available, click HERE.