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Hospice services returning to valley

Katie Redding
Aspen Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The Roaring Fork Valley will again have a local hospice care provider by early fall.

Just one month after the Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs closed Roaring Fork Hospice Program (RFHP), the valley’s only provider of hospice care, an independent hospice organization has been formed by the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, Aspen Valley Hospital and Valley View Hospital.

The three parties have agreed to contribute money toward the formation of an independent hospice program, and an anonymous donor recently contributed $1 million to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability.



“So we’re moving pretty fast,” said Kris Marsh, executive director of the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation. “We feel it’s very important.”

Since the closure of Roaring Fork Hospice Program, Montrose-based Alpine Home Health and Hospice has been available to provide hospice care in the Roaring Fork Valley. But Marsh said that she has heard of several instances in which patients have not been able to obtain hospice services because of the lack of a local provider.



The idea of an independent hospice was first brought to the Medical Foundation by two members of the Roaring Fork Hospice Program board in June, after the hospice’s closure had been announced.

The foundation convened a meeting with Valley View Hospital and Aspen Valley Hospital in order to develop a new model for an independent hospice that would serve both ends of the valley. Soon the three parties had “hammered out an understanding” and a letter of intent, Marsh said.

The new hospice offices will be in Basalt at the Aspen Basalt Healthcare Center, a Medical Foundation project scheduled to open this fall.

Markey Butler, a Snowmass resident who worked in hospice care when she lived in Michigan, has been hired as the executive director of the new organization. The hospice organization will also bring on a medical director so that the program has medical oversight, said Marsh.

Additional staff ” who will likely be part time at first ” will include a volunteer coordinator, a registered nurse, a home health care provider, a chaplain, a licensed social worker and a speech therapist, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist.

Members of the board have already been appointed and include Dr. Mike Goralka, Denise Jurgens, Karen Leavitt, Kris Marsh, Sue Smedstad, Markey Butler and Pam Szedelyi.

Although one of the reasons the defunct hospice cited for closing was its difficulty recruiting staff and patients, Marsh said she already has resumes from a number of people interested in working for the hospice organization.

She is also aware of a number of patients in need of hospice care.

Once it is up and running, the new hospice organization will provide four levels of hospice care ” routine in-home care, continuous, 24-hour care, bereavement services (provided for 13 months after a death,) and care for people in hospitals. The dying come to hospitals not to get better, said Marsh, but when they need medical care to ease their pain. Thus, they need slightly different care than most patients.

In the meantime, there is a lot of work to be done, including writing bylaws, obtaining nonprofit status, making sure the organization is recognized by Medicare and obtaining state certification. For now, the Medical Foundation is doing most of the work to get the new organization off the ground.

“For us, this is really what we’re about,” said Marsh. “We feel that we’re living our mission.”

Contributions to the new hospice can be made to Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, P.O. Box 1639, Aspen, CO 81612.


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