Our Views: Agrace HospiceCare complex to benefit Janesville, Rock County

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Plans for a facility to benefit all of Rock County will gain a physical presence when Agrace HospiceCare breaks ground on a new Janesville complex at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The facility has been a long time coming, but it will be even better than originally planned. That's because the complex to be built on five acres off Wright Road at Sandhill Drive on Janesville's northeast side will include 12 inpatient suites for acute care.

The $6.5 million, 21,000-square-foot Agrace Center for Hospice & Palliative Care got a huge boost last week when Agrace announced a $2 million anonymous donation. That put fundraising at $4.3 million, or, 65 percent, topping the mark Agrace's board wanted collected before construction began.

Hospices offer supportive care to terminally ill people and focus on comfort and quality of life rather than cures. Agrace isn't the only nonprofit hospice here; Mercy Health System also operates a nonprofit hospice. As our population ages, however, more families are turning to these end-of-life services.

Agrace operates an inpatient facility in Fitchburg. Most patients want to stay home, and initial plans were to keep funneling Janesville-area patients requesting inpatient care to the Madison suburb. When Lynne Myers arrived in August 2012 as president and chief executive officer, however, she wanted a new evaluation.

“What the research showed was that there definitely was an unmet need for hospice services throughout south-central Wisconsin and especially for those needing intense symptom management that can't be met in their homes,” said Jayme Roth, Agrace's Rock County development manager and general manager.

Roth says the fresh research suggested it is difficult for Janesville-area family members, often elderly people, to drive to Fitchburg and spend critical time with loved ones.

Agrace, headquartered in Fitchburg, serves Dane, Rock, Walworth, Jefferson and Green counties. Once the new Janesville complex is ready, Agrace will close its current offices at 3001 W. Memorial Drive and sell the building to help pay for the project.

Dozens of Agrace employees and more than 100 volunteers serve up to 150 patients each day, around the clock. Patient-centered teams involve doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, social workers, grief counselors and trained volunteers and chaplains. Each patient chooses services that suit his or her needs.

The new building will provide adequate space to coordinate patient care, train and certify workers and volunteers, support the grieving and offer end-of-life educational programs. It should be open next summer, and Roth hopes construction provides visibility that helps Agrace raise the remaining $2.2 million in the next 18 months or so. She says fundraising has been in a “quiet phase” but a direct-marketing appeal will go out this fall.

Perhaps Agrace has served someone in your family. Maybe you're in the twilight of life and foresee needing such services. Or you can imagine the day when a loved one will turn to Agrace during that end-of-life journey.

If so, Agrace would appreciate your generosity.

 “The Rock County community has just been nothing but supportive,” Roth said, “and I can't thank them enough.”

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