July Update

A Progress Report

It has been one month since the Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act went into effect on June 18, 2021 and medical aid in dying became available for terminally ill adult New Mexicans who meet the qualifications and choose it. As we reported last month, the group of dedicated volunteers who campaigned to see the passage of this legislation has now transitioned into a full-fledged not-for-profit organization called End of Life Options New Mexico.

Since the close of the 2021 Legislative session, we have been hard at work creating the organizational structure to support the development of key resources that New Mexicans needs to access the law and to better understand their end-of-life options. We are happy to report that we have made great progress and those individuals who wish to do so, are now able to utilize this compassionate option.

Indeed, the work has begun.

In this July update we offer a brief overview of some of our recent accomplishments, a summary of the services we currently offer, and some thoughts on how we hope to serve in the future.

Progress, progress, progress.

Barak Wolff, Jill VonOsten and MaryKay Brady,
Board of Directors
End of Life Options New Mexico

Organizational Progress

Branding

End of Life Options New Mexico has a new logo and we hope that you like it! It was a thoughtful process spearheaded by the Board of Directors, with critical input from a group of our trusty volunteer advisors, and an experienced end-of-life website and graphic designer. We considered several different designs and chose this one due to its colorful reflection of the New Mexico spirit and its positive and welcoming design. We hope you agree.

Contact Us

End of Life Options New Mexico now has a phone number for the public to call into.  The phone number is answered 24-7 with a recorded message that encourages the caller to leave a message with their “ask” and indicates that their call will be returned during business hours by a knowledgeable volunteer and within 24 hours of receipt, except on weekends. Now New Mexicans can contact us by phone at (505) 393-1321, by email at info@endoflifeoptionsnm.org, or by completing a Contact Us form on our website at www.endoflifeoptionsnm.org.

End of Life Options New Mexico: (505) 393-1321

EOLONM Board Of Directors

Barak Wolff, MPH
Board Chair

Barak Wolff

Barak is a mostly retired, long-time public health leader in NM working in Rural Primary Care, EMS and Trauma Systems, and as the Director of the Public Health Division in the NM Department of Health. Barak has served as an analyst for the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee for the last seventeen years when they are in session. For the last nine years, Barak has been deeply involved with end-of-life issues and is on the founding Board of Directors for the newly created non-profit, End of Life Options New Mexico. He is grateful for this opportunity to help improve our care systems and support New Mexicans in their end-of-life decisions, now including medical aid in dying.

Jill VonOsten, MBA
Board Vice-Chair

Jill VonOsten

Jill has enjoyed working and volunteering for New Mexico non-profit organizations for most of her career, which is what led her to start up an organizational development consulting firm in 2012. She has served as a non-profit board member, Executive Director and Associate Director, amassing a nonprofit skill set that includes strategic planning, human resource management, communications, instruction and curriculum development, program management, grantwriting and fund development. In the last decade, life experiences and a desire to improve access and equity in healthcare, brought her to end-of-life work and most recently a contract with Compassion & Choices to lead their 2021 New Mexico legislative campaign efforts. She has instructed courses in non-profit management, project management and grantwriting at the University of New Mexico. In her service as a founding EOLONM Board member, she hopes to establish a solid organizational foundation to begin and sustain operations for the long run.

MaryKay Brady
Board Secretary/Treasurer

MaryKay Brady

MaryKay is retired from a thirty-year career in banking but maintains a very busy volunteer life. Active with several hospice organizations as an end-of-life doula and founder of Friends of Rockhound State Park, as well as a trained Master Gardener with NMSU, life is not dull in her world. A quest for learning led her to the New Mexico End of Life Options Coalition and she began a book club to discuss Barbara Coombs Lee’s book Finish Strong: Putting YOUR Priorities First at Life’s End.  The book club led to the growth of the Las Cruces Action Team. With the authorization of the New Mexico aid in dying law, she hopes to share her caring and compassionate traits with all New Mexicans.

Board Advisors

All Boards can benefit from identifying and using the talents of special advisors…particularly a small (but mighty) Board like EOLONMs that is just starting out. Below are our initial group of Board advisors that have promised to return our phone calls, respond to our questions, and help share the workload in areas that they have special experience, specific expertise, and connectivity. We expect them to bring issues to the Board that need our attention, help us to develop sound policies and practices and help open doors for EOLONM and our cause.

Rep. Debbie Armstrong, JD
Senior Advisor

Debbie Armstrong

Rep. Armstrong is serving her fourth term as the State Representative for House District 17 (Bernalillo County). In her “day” job, she serves as President of Delta Management Group, Inc. a small business specializing in association and non-profit management. In that capacity, she also serves as Executive Director of the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool, a legislatively created safety net program providing subsidized health insurance for people with high-risk medical conditions. On a personal note, Debbie has an adult daughter with childhood-onset metastatic thyroid cancer, an experience that has linked her to families across the state struggling with serious, life threatening medical concerns. Her steadfast commitment to introduce and pass medical aid in dying is evidenced by her decision to sponsor the 2017 End-of-Life Options Acts (HB 171), the 2019 (HB 90) and the 2021 (HB 47) Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act.

Rob Schwartz, JD
Legal Policy Advisor

Rob Schwartz

Rob Schwartz has taught law at the University of New Mexico since 1976. His areas of expertise include health care policy, the Affordable Care Act, health care law and bioethics. Rob is a pioneer in the field of Health Law and is an author of “Health Law: Cases, Materials and Problems,” the leading Health Law textbook in the country. Most recently, Rob’s research and writings have focused on the areas of end-of-life care, death and dying, managed care and the application of civil liberties principles to the health care enterprise. Since 1995, Rob has helped draft legislation and has served as a consistent source for expert legal testimony in support of medical aid in dying legislation before the New Mexico Legislature.

 

Nancy Abell, MSW
Clinical Outreach and Client Services Advisor

Nancy Abell

Nancy Abell has lived in New Mexico for thirty years. She served for many years on the board of PMS Hospice. In 2012, she and her husband attended the planned death of her husband’s brother in Portland, OR.  It was a transformative experience for her, and she returned to New Mexico and began advocating for the same option for New Mexicans — an effort that took nine years to accomplish!  Nancy now Chairs the EOLONM Individual Support and Referral Committee as well as serving as the Clinical Outreach and Client Services Adviser to the Board of Directors.

 

Revathi A-Davidson, MA, MPH
Equity and Inclusion Advisor

Revathi A-Davidson

Prior to retirement, Revathi had a long career in hospital and healthcare administration. Her prior volunteer experience, includes work with Catholic Charities translating documents from Spanish into English for women who were victims of domestic violence and serving on the board of the ACLU of New Mexico. It was that work that informed some of what she has done subsequently, in particular her engagement in education and outreach about the importance of end-of-life care planning and the need to address existing healthcare disparities — including both affordability and language access. In New Mexico, both these considerations, which deal with ensuring equity and inclusiveness, are key when speaking about ALL end-of-life care options for our residents.

 

Libby Hopkins, RN
Hospice Advisor

Libby Hopkins

Libby is a registered nurse from Albuquerque where she has practiced in clinical and administrative roles for the past thirty-seven years; the first twenty years in geriatric, psychiatric and mental health nursing, and the past seventeen years as a certified hospice and palliative care nurse. She presents locally, nationally and internationally on topics related to hospice/palliative care, advance care planning, and the end-of-life care continuum including medical aid in dying and voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED), and dementia care. Libby was a key member of the End of Life Options legislative campaign Steering Committee, and currently volunteers for End of Life Options New Mexico in various aspects of implementation and community/client support for medical aid in dying, as authorized in the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act.

Elizabeth Armijo
Compassion & Choices National Partner Advisor

Elizabeth Armijo

Elizabeth Armijo is a long-time health promotion advocate and community organizer in New Mexico. Her career and life passion have been rooted in promoting access to quality health care, women’s empowerment and racial justice. Elizabeth has worked in different capacities with Compassion & Choices since 2012. She started with growing a grassroots base of supporters in New Mexico and leading two legislative campaign initiatives. Her responsibilities were then expanded across multiple states, across the western region, and now nationally. She is an elected member of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education, currently serves on the board of the NAACP, and is the past president of the New Mexico Heart Hospital Foundation board.

  

Valerie Lovelace, MS
Death With Dignity National Center, National Partner Advisor

Valerie Lovelace

Valerie is the founder and Executive Director of Maine Death with Dignity, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Founding the organization fulfilled a promise she made to her sister, Dee, in 2009 as Dee was dying: to break down barriers and societal taboos around death and dying.  From 2013 through 2019, Val was the grassroots leader and organizer of efforts to pass the Maine Death with Dignity Act. After successful passage in Maine, Val joined the team at Death with Dignity National Center. As State Campaigns Director, she coordinates focused campaign efforts in states trying to pass legislation and oversees grassroots support programs. She educates on end-of-life topics, such as the history of death with dignity in the United States, how the laws work, and the eligibility requirements for receiving life-ending medication a terminally ill patient may take on their own to end their life peacefully and humanely. Valerie is also a retired Navy veteran of 20 years, an interfaith chaplain, an accomplished artist, a mother of three adult children and two grandchildren.

EOLONM Committee Work

EOLONM has organized three committees that are currently focusing on planning and development  work in three critical areas to help us build our array of services to the public. In brief, here is where we are right now…

Nancy Abell heads up the Clinical Outreach and Education (COE) Committee where the group is exploring participation in medical aid in dying by hospices and clinician groups, arranging for medical aid in dying technical/clinical training for clinicians and coordinating referrals, as people request our assistance.

Revathi A-Davidson and Jan Wilson are co-chairing the Public Outreach and Education (POE) Committee where eventually they will be seeking community volunteers who they will screen and train to arrange and conduct presentations, table events (i.e. distribute materials and discuss issues at a conference), and do community outreach and education about advance care planning, end-of-life options, including medical aid in dying, etc.

And finally, Hunter Marshall is chairing the Individual Support and Resources (ISR) Committee that will eventually seek, screen and train additional volunteers who may assist patients and families with individual advance care planning consultations, patient navigation assistance in understanding and identifying palliative care or hospice resources, consultation about all end-of-life options, and finally in home/bedside support for those who request it for VSED or medical aid in dying. As the program evolves, it is anticipated that potential volunteers will identify their interests, backgrounds, and what kinds of service they wish to provide, etc.

In the meantime, we are benefitting from the experience of other authorized states, learning from their volunteers and administrators, and setting up processes modeled on best-practices for Volunteer Programs. A special thank you to the American Clinician’s Academy on Medical Aid in Dying (ACAMAID.org) and the Volunteer Programs in Washington, Oregon and California for sharing your wisdom and supporting our development.

So, for now we are compiling lists of potential volunteers so we can contact them down the road when we have a more fully developed Volunteer Program with recruiting, screening, training and quality improvement processes.

To summarize… for now we are in an early developmental stage, but will be adding more volunteers in the future when our programs and procedures are established and functioning. A special appreciation to all those committed volunteers who have participated in strategic planning, endured marathon Zoom meetings, and are working diligently in their committees, volunteering, supporting, caring, and providing constructive feedback and encouragement to one another.

Ready for Donations

Our application for 501(c)3 tax exempt status has been submitted to the IRS. According to IRS rules, we can now begin to receive tax-deductible donations based on the presumption that the application will be approved.

As we proceed with our comprehensive website upgrade, we anticipate having the ability to collect tax-deductible credit card donations through our website. For now, we can accept check donations at the address below.

The Board and key Advisors are working on a Development (Fundraising) Plan in order to develop, grow and sustain a viable non-profit to achieve our mission of providing information and support for all end-of-life options, including medical aid in dying. Without ongoing, year to year donor and/or foundation support, our new non-profit End of Life Options New Mexico, will not exist, much less fulfill our important mission.

We need operating funds and it is also our intention to create a special fund for individuals who need financial assistance to support their end-of-life choices. This is a particularly important challenge here in New Mexico with our high level of medically indigent and uninsured people.

Please consider making a reoccurring donation (monthly, quarterly, annually) and make a notation of that on your check. This type of support will enable the organization to anticipate funds and better plan and respond to the needs of those seeking support for their end-of-life choices.

For now, donations can be made by check to:
End of Life Options New Mexico

And mailed to:
End of Life Options New Mexico
c/o Delta Management Group, 500 Marquette Avenue NW, Suite 280, Albuquerque, NM 87102

Service Delivery Progress

Client Support

EOLONM has set up a temporary system to manage and track incoming inquiries and requests for services from the contact form on our current website (endoflifeoptionsnm.org), our email address (info@endoflifeoptionsnm.org), or our telephone number (505-393-1321).

Incoming messages are monitored during regular work hours and our commitment is to either respond to their requests promptly by email or have a trained volunteer contact them within 48 hours. For those messages that require a personal response, the inquiries are handed off to the on-call Client Support Volunteer who is scheduled for that day. Client Support Volunteers work with that client until the case is closed or referred to another level of support, sometimes for a clinical referral. So far, we have been able to respond to requests in a timely and helpful manner…our sincere thanks to all those who have volunteered to take calls.

Clinical Developments

A group of very capable and energetic volunteers on the Clinical Outreach & Education committee have been working for almost a year and have identified some qualified clinical prescribers in New Mexico who we can refer patients to, pharmacies that will compound and provide the medications, and some hospices that are willing to participate at various levels with the aid in dying process. We are actively working with clients who are requesting aid in dying from all quadrants of the state and making some progress. Our greatest challenge right now is identifying clinicians across the state who are willing to assess patients requesting medical aid in dying and prescribe aid-in-dying medications as appropriate. If you are, or know, a clinician that is interested in learning more about the practice of medical aid in dying, you can contact EOLONM at 505-393-1321 or you can send an email to info@endoflifeoptionnm.org.

The first two medical aid in dying ingestions that we were involved with took place in the patients homes this past week and several others are likely in the near future. The very good news is: our law is in effect and dying people are accessing it to relieve their suffering. We can be very proud about our progress in implementing the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act.

Questions & Comment