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Southern Maryland Hospices Do Invaluable Service

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on September 25, 2006:

Senator Dyson Recently, I heard a classic example of how something very bad can turn into something extraordinarily good.

Someone told me how pleased they were that a notorious drug haven that was raided by police and turned over to the St. Mary’s County government is now the site of what will soon be the new six-bedroom St. Mary’s County Hospice House. This state-of-the art facility will be a fully staffed home where people who are terminally ill can have a peaceful place to live out their final days with family, friends and volunteers around them.

The St. Mary’s Hospice House will be available to anyone in the county who has a terminal illness who can not be properly cared for at home. Access to the house will be available regardless of the individual’s ability to pay and will be open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

I was pleased to procure $125,000 for this house during the 2006 General Assembly Session. This bond money authorizes the creation of a State Debt with the proceeds to be used as a grant to the Board of Directors of St. Mary's Hospital of St. Mary's County, Inc., for the planning, design, acquisition, construction, and capital equipping of the St. Mary's County Hospice House. Construction on the house is underway. I was pleased to visit the site recently. It makes me feel better that a place that was so notorious for dealing drugs is now going to be serving people in such a positive way.

Last year, I was approached by Calvert Hospice Executive Director Lynn Bonde who asked me to submit similar legislation for the Calvert County Hospice House. It took me about a half a second to say yes. I was able to secure similar funding for that project which is currently underway. Like the St. Mary’s Hospice House, the Calvert Hospice House will also be available to anyone in Calvert who has a terminal illness who can not be properly cared for at home. Access to the house will be available regardless of the individual’s ability to pay.

Those who work for St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles hospices are some of the finest people I know. They are all non-profit organizations with small, highly dedicated paid staffs who rely heavily on volunteers.

These volunteers are truly exceptional people. Nobody likes to deal with death. So to have people agree to work with terminally ill patients is heroic. These volunteers become extremely close to their patients -- almost like family -- knowing going into their assignment that the patient they are caring for has just days or months before they pass on. It has to be a tremendously difficult task. Yet all of the hospice volunteers I have talked to have never said it is a burden and once they lose the patient they have ultimately befriended, they take on another patient. This courage is just very inspiring to me.

I think by now it is pretty clear how I feel about our hospices in Southern Maryland.

That is why I am especially pleased with the work I did on Senate Bill 732 in 2003 which I co-sponsored with lead sponsor Thomas “Mac” Middleton. This bill ensured that our local hospices continue to do the fine work they have always done without interference.

Outside for-profit companies were threatening to come into Southern Maryland. Senate Bill 732, which became law, prohibited the Maryland Health Care Commission from issuing a certificate of need -- which our local hospices already had -- to these money making goliaths.

Senator Middleton and the bill’s other co-sponsor, Leonard Teitelbaum, of Montgomery County, and I agreed that if something wasn’t broken, it didn’t need to be fixed or tampered with. We thought it would be a slap in the face to the St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles hospices if outside organizations --including one from Virginia -- were allowed to come in and “compete” with the non-profit hospices. The personal and compassionate touch our local hospices provide would have been compromised by outside forces.

Recently, I received the Hospice of Charles County’s annual report and was touched by a personal note they sent me thanking me for my support of hospice over the years. It made my day to read “We are most grateful to Senators Thomas (Mac) Middleton and Roy Dyson for their continuing support.”

I mentioned earlier that everyone is uncomfortable dealing with death. I can totally understand why some people just cannot bring themselves to volunteer to aid a terminally ill patient. But you can still make a major difference. Since our Southern Maryland hospices are not-for-profit, they depend on donations. If you want to give a tax-deductible donation to your local hospice, here’s how:

Calvert Hospice can be reached by dialing (301) 855-1226; or send your donation or offer to volunteer to 238 Merrimac Court; Prince Frederick, MD 20678. Their website is www.calverthospice.org.

Hospice of Charles County can be reached by dialing (301) 934-1268; or send your donation or offer to volunteer to Hospice of Charles County at P.O. Box 1703; La Plata, MD 20646. Their website is Hospiceofcharlescounty.org. If you want to donate to the campaign for the Calvert Hospice House, designate that on your check.

Hospice of St. Mary’s County can be reached by dialing (301) 475-2023; or send your donation or offer to volunteer to Hospice of St. Mary’s at P.O. Box 625; Leonardtown, MD 20650. Their website is hospice@smhwecare.com. If you want to donate to the campaign for the St. Mary’s Hospice House specifically, designate that on your check.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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