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Baystate awarded $2.5 million federal grant to support care for older Americans

August 21, 2015

As hospitals and healthcare facilities across the nation prepare to meet the increasing care needs of an aging population, Baystate Health has received a $2,524,170 three-year grant from HRSA’s Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program to support quality care for older Americans.

Providing better care

Recognized nationally for the delivery of world-class care and for innovation in training the next generation of health care providers, Baystate is the only facility in Massachusetts, joining 44 healthcare institutions in 29 states, to receive a portion of $35.7 million made available by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Maura Brennan, chief, Division of Geriatrics, Palliative Care and Post-Acute Medicine at Baystate, is leading the initiative.

“This innovative award makes Baystate a national center of excellence for geriatrics education and care. It supports improving clinical programs while expanding training for doctors, nurses, social workers, advanced practitioners, pharmacists, students, trainees and others. This combination of service to patients and education of clinicians will transform how we care for older people,” Dr. Brennan said.

HRSA’s Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program supports the development of a workforce to improve the health of seniors by building geriatrics expertise and approaches into primary care, engaging patients and their families and redesigning the healthcare system.

“The grants awarded reaffirm our commitment to invest in ensuring high quality care for older adults,” said Health and Human Service Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell and will “promote access” to needed services.

The project

The Baystate project, entitled the Baystate Regional Geriatrics and Palliative Care Initiative - the Geri-pal TLC (Transformation through Learning and Collaboration) Project, will integrate palliative care as well as geriatrics throughout the health system.

“Geriatricians specialize in the care of elders, just as pediatricians do for children. Elders are not just ‘older middle-aged people.’ They have their own unique strengths and challenges. Palliative care clinicians are experts in relieving suffering and helping people with chronic and sometimes incurable medical problems. By working together, these two fields allow older people to define their own futures and feel as good as they can for as long as they can,” Dr. Brennan explained.

The partners

The new initiative will mobilize a host of partners throughout Baystate Health and beyond who will play central roles in the initiative, including the hospital’s three community health centers – Baystate Brightwood Health Center, Baystate Mason Square Neighborhood Health Center, and Baystate High Street Health Center – at Baystate Medical Center, especially its Acute Care for Elders pilot, as well as Baystate Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice and Baystate’s Memory Disorders Program.

Additional collaborators include Commonwealth Care Alliance, Partners for a Healthier Community, New North Citizens’ Council, Mason Square Health Task Force, Mason-Wright Independent and Assisted Living, Western Massachusetts Nursing Collaborative, and the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Their efforts will be critical in coordinating programs and resources to support patients and families in our communities,” Dr. Brennan said.

Elms College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Springfield College, and Bay Path University also are partnering in the grant activities. Their nursing, social work, physician assistant and nurse practitioner students, along with Baystate staff and trainees, will be learning together how to care better for older patients and their families.

“It takes a village of skilled and committed clinicians working in teams to provide the care which seniors in the Springfield area need and deserve. It is challenging to care for elders who may be frail and in their final years, but we are up to the task and what needs to be done is clear. We all love many older people. They are our parents and grandparents, former teachers and dear neighbors. It is time to get this right for them,” Dr. Brennan said.

Dr. Andrew W. Artenstein, chair of Baystate's Department of Medicine, said as the grant’s principal investigator, Dr. Brennan will “lead transformational change in the way that we deliver care to older adults and the way we train the next generation of health care providers.”

“The result of all of their hard work will lead to potentially developing a model that others will emulate,” he said.

Information on resources and topics to help older adults live independent and fulfilling lives such as healthy aging, elder justice, long-term care, and vital programs like Social Security and Medicare, is available at the newly launched government website.