Alameda Health System (AHS) will expand its palliative care services to more patients experiencing serious illness, thanks to a $3 million grant from the Stupski Foundation.

Palliative care is a specialty in health care that helps people who are diagnosed with a serious illness–such as cancer, heart, lung, kidney or liver disease, or dementia–continue to live well. Patients, families, and caregivers of people with serious illness often experience physical, emotional, and spiritual stress that negatively impacts quality of life. Palliative care teams provide psychosocial and spiritual support, manage pain and other symptoms, and coordinate care to lower stress and ensure that the patient is at the center of their care.

The AHS palliative care service is staffed by a diverse team of physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, social workers, outreach workers, and chaplains who work alongside a patient’s other clinicians.

“The most important thing we do is help people continue to do the things they love to do,” said Dr. Wendy Anderson, chief of palliative care at AHS.

Though the number of palliative care programs is increasing in California, the need for services still far exceeds the capacity of providers and programs. In Alameda County, inpatient palliative care services meet 65 percent of patient need. Community-based services meet only 39 percent of need, according to a study from the California Health Care Foundation. While there are unmet needs across all people experiencing serious illness, the gap is even more significant within Black, Asian, and Latino communities.

Among other approaches, the Stupski Foundation invests in palliative care services and clinician training programs so that more people who have a serious illness diagnosis will have access to care that helps them to live well. In 2019, it granted $2 million to AHS to support the expansion of palliative care from Highland Hospital to all acute care hospitals across the AHS system. The additional $3 million in grant funding will support expansion in the community, increasing access to patients at skilled nursing facilities, in clinic, and at home while reducing equity gaps in access and outcomes of care.

“We’re building on the continuum of care by expanding our outpatient services. We see it as being able to provide palliative care wherever our patients are. We’re going into the community,” said Thomishia Booker, director of outpatient services, including palliative care at AHS.

In addition to strengthening and expanding AHS palliative services, the grant will support resilience and long-term sustainability for the palliative care services and its clinicians, so that these services remain at AHS for decades to come.

“Since day one I have been impressed by this team’s focus on the complete well-being of the people in their care. They see the wholeness of each individual and their experiences, and tailor support accordingly. AHS is lucky to have these dedicated leaders spreading a higher standard of care for serious illness throughout its system,” said Dan Tuttle, director of health at the Stupski Foundation.

Learn more about the AHS Palliative Services and meet our team here.