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Access Initiative: Hospice for All

Access Initiative

Hospice care is available to all Americans with six months or less to live, regardless of their skin color, religion or culture. Yet, of the 1.7 million people who received hospice care in the U.S. in 2014, only:

  • 7.6% were Black/African American
  • 7.1% were Hispanic or Latino
  • 4.3% were Asian, Hawaiian or “other”1

The VITAS Access Initiative

Misconceptions about hospice within these underserved populations keep people from accessing appropriate end-of-life care. At VITAS, we reach out to earn the trust of these communities through our Access Initiative, intended to dispel hospice myths and bring much-needed information about the kind of care available through the Medicare hospice benefit. 

The VITAS Access Initiative started in 2003. Our community liaisons advocate for specific communities, including African American, Hispanic, Haitian, Jewish, LGBTQ and military veterans. Because they’re members of the communities they serve, our community liaisons have a deep understanding of the beliefs and misgivings within that culture.

Their work includes:

  • Visiting senior centers, churches, classrooms, assisted living communities and VA hospitals, health fairs and community events to raise hospice awareness and address concerns 
  • Educating the community and speaking on a variety of topics, from living wills and caregiver burnout to who qualifies for hospice and how it is paid for 
  • Creating an understanding and comfortable environment in which to talk about death, dying and advance care planning within the framework of their community

“I want to bring awareness of what hospice is and consider myself an educator to the African American community,” says one VITAS community liaison. “My job is to provide the facts that will help families make informed decisions about end-of-life care. Everyone should have access to the wonderful services VITAS provides.”

1. NHPCO.org source (PDF)

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