The Coast News Group
CUTLINE: Darlene Shiley (left), a philanthropist who donated $1.2 million to the Palliative Care Institute at Cal State San Marcos and Helen McNeal, the executive director of the institute. Photo by Jared Whitlock

Palliative care institute launches at Cal State San Marcos

SAN MARCOS — A new institute at Cal State San Marcos aims to train more nurses, doctors, social workers and spiritual counselors in palliative care. 

Palliative care focuses on providing physical, emotional and social treatment for those with serious or chronic illnesses such as heart disease and arthritis. At a reception for the institute Thursday, doctors, educators and those from health-care foundations talked about the growing need for palliative care.

In an impromptu speech, local philanthropist Darlene Shiley spoke about how important palliative care was for her husband, who passed away after battling a four-year illness.

“I am so pleased to support a program that will ultimately benefit others the way I have been personally helped,” Shiley said. “My late husband’s experience with hospice and palliative care made me realize how specialized and important the field of palliative care is today.”

Several others at the reception emphasized that palliative care is different from hospice care. They can overlap, but palliative care is typically for those with a chronic or life-threatening illness, regardless of life expectancy. Hospice care, however, is generally for those who are at the final stages of a terminal illness and will no longer benefit from medical treatment.

At the end of her speech, Shiley unexpectedly upped her original donation of $100,000 to $1.2 million. In addition to the grant from Shiley, the institute received a total of $1.2 million from the Archstone Foundation and the California Healthcare Foundation.

The institute’s five-year operating budget is $5 million. It will be funded by the start-up grants and tuition from secondary education classes teaching palliative care, according to Helen McNeal, the executive director of the institute.

McNeal said the institute will be “self-supporting” and that “dollars aren’t coming from the California State University system.”

The institute will not require building additional facilities, McNeal also noted.

She said some of the current nursing, health care and social work classes at Cal State San Marcos will be tweaked to include palliative care lessons; the institute will offer secondary education classes for professionals pursuing certifications in palliative care; and the institute will hold meetings to inform the public about palliative care.

The public meetings will address the basics of how to care for someone with a chronic illness, as well as how to access and ask for palliative care.

The community outreach meetings should begin in October and the secondary education classes will likely start next year, according to McNeal.

According to CSU Trustee Roberta Achtenberg, there are plans for other CSUs to replicate the model. Cal State San Marcos was chosen as the first school for the palliative care institute because of its strong nursing program and leadership, she said.

“I can’t tell you how vital these services will become,” Achtenberg said.

Achtenberg pointed out that an estimated 14 million people have at least one chronic disease in California, and the number is expected to increase. Hospitals are unprepared, she said. Only 60 percent of California hospitals have a palliative care team.

Palliative care teams typically include a physician, nurse, social worker, pharmacist, chaplain and others as needed.

One of the major functions of palliative care is putting together pain-management regimens.

CSU Chancellor Charles Reed believes the institute is a great fit for Cal State San Marcos.

“This was a perfect idea for a young, relatively new university to step out and become a leader,” Reed said.