For Immediate Release

Contact: Carol Ann Campbell (973-567-1901)








PRINCETON — April 2, 2019 — Throughout April, New Jersey communities will come together in libraries, town halls, senior centers and hospitals to talk about a challenging topic: end-of-life care. The events, scheduled around National Healthcare Decisions Day, aim to inspire and educate people about the value of advance care planning. Subject matter experts such as physicians, nurses and social workers will answer questions, including how to select a health care proxy, and what documents to use.

The events are sponsored by Conversation of Your Life (COYL), part of the Mayors Wellness Campaign, a program of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and the New Jersey League of Municipalities. COYL began in 2014.

“We are doing nothing less than changing the culture in New Jersey around end-of-life care,” said Linda Schwimmer, President and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. “We’re bringing people together for thoughtful conversations that ensure their own end-of-life wishes are honored. And we help people provide the gift of clarity to their loved ones.”

Those who attend the events will learn the differences among Living Wills, Advance Directives, and POLST (Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). COYL events help guide people in discussions with their families and health care providers, and make these often-difficult conversations easier.

Events are planned in Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Union counties. A list of the individual events is provided here, and below. National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16. All COYL events are open to the public and those interested are encouraged to attend.

In a proclamation, Gov. Phil Murphy declared April 16 as Healthcare Decisions Day in New Jersey and encouraged people in the state to join him in special observations. The proclamation noted that a Quality Institute poll found that just 60 percent of people in New Jersey wrote down their end-of-life care wishes, and 38 percent had conversations about their wishes. “A reason for the low rates may be the lack of knowledge and considerable confusion about advance care planning and advance directives,” the proclamation said.

Shereef Elnahal, New Jersey Commissioner of Health, will participate in a COYL event on April 16, 2 pm, at Trenton Public Library.

New Jersey has among the nation’s highest rates of medical interventions, such as feeding tubes and ventilators, in the last six months of life. The state also has higher rates of deaths in hospital intensive care units compared with other parts of the country, and the use of hospice is low in New Jersey compared with other states. Yet according to multiple polls, most people in New Jersey say they prefer to die at home, surrounded by loved ones.

The Quality Institute is requesting that people who sign their advance directives to consider sharing the news on social media using these hash tags: #NHDD #ConversationOfYourLife #NJHCQI.

“We’re thankful to our experts, including physicians, nurses, social workers and lawyers, who are volunteering their time at our events. We’re also thankful to The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey for supporting COYL,” Schwimmer said.

Here is the listing of events:

Atlantic County

  • April 24, 3 pm, Hammonton Library
    • Featuring: Mayor Steve Didonato of Hammonton; Anthony Salvo, MD, Family Medicine, AtlantiCare; Raymond Beebe, Esq., Law Office of Raymond Beebe; Victor Gazzara, DM, LCSW, Holy Redeemer Hospice

Bergen County

  • April 4, 4:30 pm, Berkley College – Paramus Campus
    • Featuring: Mayor Ramon Hache of Ridgewood; Dawn Certulo, Health Officer, Ridgewood; Susan Breithaupt, Health Educator, Valley Hospital; Judy Migliaccio, Health Officer, Paramus; Shari Haber, Great Goodbyes; Shana Siegel, Norris McLaughlin
  • April 5, 1:30 pm, Senior Source – Hackensack, NJ
    • Featuring: Leslie Greenberg, Community Outreach Director, Senior Source; Naomi K. McDermott, Director of Social Services, Jewish Home of Rockleigh; Lisa Blumer, RN, Holy Name Medical Center; Tracey Arnauer, SW, Administrator, Villa Marie Claire
  • April 10, 1 pm, Tenafly Senior Center
    • Featuring: Mayor Peter Rustin of Tenafly; Naomi K. McDermott, Director of Social Services, Jewish Home of Rockleigh; Michael Prigoff, Esq., Lebson & Prigoff, LLC

Burlington County

  • April 16, 12 pm, Gibson House – Evesham Township, NJ
    • Featuring: Mayor Veasy of Evesham, Monica Vandenberg, Evesham Township Director of Senior Services; Eva Russell, RN, Director of Clinical Support, Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice; Robert Keltos, Rothamel & Associates, LLC

Camden County

  • April 17, 2 pm, Jefferson Stratford Hospital
    • Featuring: Michelle Gentek-Mayer, Camden County Surrogate; Sarah Pagliaro, MD, Associate Director of Palliative Medicine, Samaritan Health

Essex County

  • April 17, 12 pm, Edgemont Park – Montclair, NJ
    • Featuring: Mary Ellen Clyne, PhD, CEO & President, Clara Maass Medical Center; Jaklyn DeVore, Division Director, Essex County Division of Senior Services; Mayor Robert Jackson of Montclair; Dr. Audrey Radin, Hospice Medical Director, VNA/RWJBH Home Care and Hospice; Shana Siegel, Norris McLaughlin; Louis Monticchio, Director of Pastoral Care, VNA/RWJBH Home Care and Hospice; Dr. Sheree Starrett

Gloucester County

  • April 27, 10 am, Calvary Chapel of Gloucester County – Washington Township
    • Deborah Armus, RN, MPA, VITAS Healthcare; Dr. Jaymica Patel, Hospitalist Director, Inspira Medical Center Woodbury; Melanie Siano, Pre-need Counselor and Family Advocate, McGuiness Funeral Home

Hudson County

  • April 16, 9 am, Bethune Life Center – Jersey City
    • Featuring: Ruddys Andrade, Vice President External Affairs, CarePoint Health; Irene Borgen, RN, MSN, MBA, Vice President Ambulatory Care Netowrk, Jersey City Medical Center; Stacey Flanagan, Director, Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services; Ellen Rand, Author, Last Comforts: Notes from the Forefront of Late Life Care; Dr. Michelle Reisner, Geriatrician, CarePoint Health

Mercer County

  • April 16, 2pm, Trenton Public Library
    • Featuring: Shereef Elnahal, New Jersey Commissioner of Health; Shakira Abdul Ali, Director, Trenton’s Department of Health and Human Services; Mary Ann Christopher, Vice President Community Health, The Horizon Foundation of New Jersey; Brian Hughes, Mercer County Executive; Mayor Gusciora of Trenton; Dr. Carolyn Gaukler, Director of Palliative Care, Capital Health; Patricia Hall, Operational Manager, Trenton Public Library; Victor Medina, Medina Law Group

Middlesex County

  • April 7, 2 pm, Highland Park Public Library
    • Featuring: Mayor Brill Mittler of Highland Park; Christine Filippini, Nurse Manager and Dr. Vikantra Sharma, Medical Director of Palliative Medicine, VNA Health Group
  • April 25, 2 pm, Spotswood Library

Monmouth County

  • April 26, 10 am, Monmouth County Library Eastern Branch – Shrewsbury
    • Featuring: Rosemary Gorman, Geriatric & Palliative APN, Monmouth Medical Center; Kathy McKean, RN; Patricia Starke, RN, Ocean Medical Center

Union County

  • April 16, 7 pm, Clark Public Library
    • Featuring: Rev. Donna Owusu-Ansah, M.Div, Chaplain, HMH JFK Haven Hospice & Palliative Care

About Conversation of Your Life


Conversation of Your Life is a Mayors Wellness Campaign program that focuses on engaging communities in fruitful dialogue — the Conversation of Your Life — to let individual’s family, friends, and health care providers understand and respect their end-of-life wishes through advance care planning. Conversation of Your Life is generously supported by The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.


About the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute


At the Quality Institute, we believe that collaboration is essential to improving our health care system. That’s why we bring providers, payers, patients and decision makers together to advance health care safety, quality and affordability. We’re the only independent, nonpartisan advocate working in New Jersey to promote accountability and transparency. We have more than 100 unique member organizations— all committed to improving health care for everyone in New Jersey.