The note in my mail simply said: We did it! Thank you!
I knew exactly what Sybil was talking about. She’s an inmate at WHV, Michigan’s only state prison for women based in Ypsilanti, and she was forwarding to me a memo that had been circulated among the inmates. The printed message was seeking volunteers for a new Hospice Program being developed at that facility. What a milestone!
The hospice-care-for-prisoners concept goes back a long way. Over the past 15 years my heart has been broken, time after time, over the conditions in which many of our prisoners spend their final days and hours. I’m especially sensitive to all of this because my wife Marcia, a specially-trained hospice nurse, spent more than a decade in a local hospice program.
So, HFP began the long journey of trying to get some kind of hospice-type care into our state prison system.
Following a series of meetings with representatives of Hospice of Michigan, we orchestrated a meeting with Michigan Department of Corrections Healthcare representatives, CORIZON (the prison HMO), Hospice of Michigan and HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. It proved to be less than satisfactory, with the state insisting that it’s CHOICES program was, indeed, very similar to hospice. It wasn’t. (CHOOSE, HEALTH OPTIONS, INITIATE CARE, AND EDUCATE SELF)
Unwilling to drop the ball, HFP continued to pursue hospice care by staging a public forum in Grand Haven on the topic. MDOC Director Dan Heyns was invited to participate in a panel discussion. He sent Warden Heidi Washington in his place. Other participants included a CORIZON physician, two hospice physicians, and this reporter. Short videos were shown to the audience and panel telling of successful Hospice Programs in Iowa and Louisiana prisons.
In a private meeting with the new MDOC Director, Heidi Washington, we were informed that a new Hospice Program was being initiated in a Michigan prison for the first time. I asked if our previous efforts had been instrumental in bringing about this change. I was informed that no, we had nothing to do with it. Whatever.
One of our specific goals was to get Hospice into WHV, the women’s prison, after working with families over the years in a series of heart-breaking death and dying situations. And we’re proud to report today that, according to an MDOC memo: A new Hospice Program is being developed at WHV, and prisoners in Levels One and Two are invited to participate by becoming a Prisoner Palliative Care Aide!
Some will say that HFP’s efforts over the past several years had nothing to do with these exciting new developments, but that’s not the point.
Makes no difference who gets the credit.
Makes all the difference in the world that we begin to extend proper care and compassion to those deserving men and women who are dying behind bars!
SOLI DEO GLORIA!