Mecklenburg County hasn’t seen a new hospice agency in at least 16 years but state officials say there isn’t a need for one.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Black-owned at-home hospice service wants to come to Mecklenburg County. The company said there’s a need to help minority populations that are historically underserved with end-of-life care. However, the state denied its application this week.
The business and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP are calling the denial an injustice.
Heart’n Soul Hospice aims to address racial disparities by catering end-of-life health care to people of color.
“We provide that culture-competent care I know that so many reach out for when their loved ones are sick, or in jeopardy, or need someone to be there,” Heart’n Soul partner Kevin Allison told WCNC Charlotte.
Allison explained many people who don’t have access to health care often don’t understand what hospice is or they can’t afford it.
“There’s a whole subset of people that haven’t benefited that are in need of hospice services,” Allison said.
The company submitted an application to the State Health Coordinating Council, which is under the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. North Carolina is a Certificate of Need state, meaning health care facilities are regulated by the state and new ones must be approved by an oversight board.
Heart’n Soul’s list of supporters includes local NAACP president Reverend Corine Mack.
“I personally experienced hospice care for two of my sisters,” Mack shared. “So, I know the pain that we went through.”
Mack said her sisters’ transitions would’ve been easier if they had better representation on their care team.
“My sister Ruth, who passed in July, kept saying, ‘I want to go home, I don’t trust these people. I want to go home,’ and we brought her home,” Mack said. “I couldn’t negate her feelings because I too felt uncomfortable. I felt invisible. And I think many Black people feel that way when they’re hospitalized.”
Mecklenburg County manager Dena Diorio also wrote a letter of support that says, in part:
“Reducing racial and ethnic disparities is a critical priority and essential to delivering effective health and human services in Mecklenburg County… While the existing Mecklenburg County hospice agencies serve a considerable number of patients in and around Mecklenburg County, there continues to be many minority residents, particularly those over the age of 65 who are more likely to require end of life care and that have endured decades of inequality, resulting in a lack of trust of medical institutions that makes it particularly challenging to gain acceptance to deliver care in their home.”
This week, the State Health Coordinating Council denied Heart’n Soul’s application to come to Mecklenburg County. The council report says the area has nine hospice services and doesn’t need more.
“It’s very disappointing when the folks that need the care’s voices are not heard,” founder David Turner said.
Turner disagrees with the assertion that the area doesn’t need more hospice care. He pointed to the fact that Charlotte is growing exponentially and becoming more diverse. Plus, state records show there hasn’t been a new hospice service approved in the county for at least 16 years.
Turner may need to wait another year to reapply, but hopes to find a solution sooner. Heart’n Soul currently operates in Seattle, Washington and Nashville, Tennessee, which are also Certificate of Need states.
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