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A Brief History of the

New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization


The New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NJHPCO) is a nonprofit educational organization recognized with a 501(c)(3) designation by the Internal Revenue Service.  Its objectives are to promote the hospice concept as a program of care for the terminally ill and their families.


NJHPCO was incorporated as the New Jersey Hospice Organization (NJHO) on Nov. 20, 1979.  Original trustees were Denyse Adler, Paul Armstrong, Marilyn Thompson, Shelley Van Kempen and Don Wernsing.  Don Wernsing served as the first president.  NJHO was first housed at the Community Education Programs of the College of Medicine and Dentistry in Piscataway.  New Jersey hospice leaders took an active role in the development of the National Hospice Organization -- among them Zachary Morfogen, who served as NHO’s first chairman.


In 1982, a major grant from the William Lightfoot Schultz Foundation allowed NJHO to hire an executive director.  Early activities of NJHO included consultation with groups interested in developing hospice programs, educational seminars, support of the movement to give registered nurses the right to pronounce death, and education of the membership about the new Medicare Hospice Benefit.  Through the years, NJHO devoted itself to the medical and social issues of living wills, advance care planning, Medicaid waiver hospice benefit for AIDS patients, development of the Medicaid Hospice Benefit and recognition of hospice care as a mainstream health care service by consumers, health care professionals and insurers.


Throughout the early 1990s, legislative, reimbursement and regulatory issues became top priorities for NJHO in the changing health care environment.  A major feature in The New York Times in March 1991 focused on NJHO and evolution of hospice in the state.  In November 1992, after long work by NJHO, the Medicaid Hospice Benefit was made available in New Jersey.  In 1994, the NJHO Board of Trustees approved the organization’s first voluntary Standards of a Hospice Program of Care.   On April 24, 1997, Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed the state’s first hospice licensure law, which had been drafted with and promoted by NJHO.


In 1997, NJHO became the nation’s first state hospice association to expand its name and mission to include palliative care (comfort care for patients not yet appropriate for hospice).  Similar actions have since been taken by hospice associations in 16 other states and, in 1999, by the national organization. 


Today, NJHPCO represents hospice agencies serving over 90% of New Jersey’s 30,000 patients and families each year.  NJHPCO provides extensive web-based guidance for patients and families considering hospice care.  NJHPCO sponsors educational offerings for hospice staffers and hospice volunteers and our awards program recognizes excellence in hospice caregiving and community leadership.  NJHPCO publishes a free weekly six-page e-newsletter (Transitions) available to the public by subscribing at  NJHPCO program committees and councils include Annual Conference, Education, Ethics, Hospice Veteran Partnership, Reimbursement/Government Relations, Pediatric End-of-Life Care, Quality Partners and Volunteer Conference.


NJHPCO advances virtually every issue that could benefit patients at end of life and their families.  NJHPCO represents the hospice community to insurers, payors and public policy groups such as the Medical Society of New Jersey, New Jersey State Nurses Association, New Jersey State Bar Association, New Jersey Pain Initiative, End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium, several regional Hospice Veteran Partnerships, and others.


For further information, go to or contact the

New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

at (908) 233-0060 or



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