KCH Aids Ground-Breaking Program at Missouri Prisons

T-Shirt for Trainees, designed via a contest at Jefferson City Correctional Center

T-Shirt for Trainees, designed via a contest at Jefferson City Correctional Center

In a new hospice program, both patients and caregivers have been convicted of crimes. The Missouri Prison Hospice Program trains offenders to care for other inmates. Hospice is based on the belief that everyone deserves compassion as they are dying. There is hope that offenders who extend that compassion as volunteers will find meaning and purpose in caring for others.

For more than two years, a small, dedicated group of hospice professionals have worked to develop the program which launched in May 2015. Dr. Jay Riseman and Erin Kling, RN, both of KCH&PC, have championed this effort and been an integral part of the leadership team.

Dying inmates in Missouri prisons normally receive medical care only. Jane Moore, CEO of the Missouri Hospice & Palliative Care Association (MHPCA), approached the Department of Correc-tions with a vision to create a hospice program that would be available to the entire prison system.
Dr. Riseman was instrumental in helping develop the curriculum and in writing the manual used in the comprehensive training. “Dr. Riseman has been incredible throughout this project and has taken on many aspects of the training,” stated Moore.

The first 30 offenders were trained at the Jefferson City Correctional Center (JCCC) on May 15. The intensive one-day session featured presentations by Dr. Riseman, plus nurses, social workers and chaplains from several Missouri hospices. KCH Team Manager Erin Kling, RN, taught practical skills that will used in caring for fellow offenders. They learned about the philosophy of hospice, medical and spiritual care, ethics, stress management, cultural perspectives and more. There is a waiting list of inmates who want to be trained in delivering hospice care and the program is set to expand to all Missouri prisons in the coming months.

“This concept has never been done,” said Moore. “While there are many programs across the country, none function throughout a state prison system.” Moore gathered a multi-disciplinary group representing hospices across Missouri to begin the process of designing a training curriculum.

Dr. Riseman looks forward to the program’s expansion into all Missouri prisons. “While the physicians who treat offenders are very open to the concepts of hospice, they simply do not have the time and resources to deliver hospice care,” said Dr. Riseman. “Training offenders to care for others with a life-limiting illness is the most viable option to deal with an aging prison population.” 

The Missouri Prison Hospice Program is entirely funded by donations. To help, call 573.634.5514.

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