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Kerns, Aspinwall of Journey Hospice
Forrest Kerns and Joanna Aspinwall own Journey Hospice at 712 Carbon Street, Suite 5, in Billings.

Even with all the options for hospice care in Billings, Joanna Aspinwall didn’t see what she wanted.

So, the hospice professional decided to start her own business with partner Forrest Kerns.

“Billings needed a hospice that is locally owned and small, not owned by a large corporation or just a small part of a big medical machine,” she said.

The pair own and operate Journey Hospice at 712 Carbon St., Suite 5, in Billings.

“We started this business to give great dignified care to hospice patients,” she said. “Hospice is all we do, we care about each and every patient.”

Journey Hospice may be reached at 794-1546. Here’s what else Aspinwall had to say about balancing care with making a profit:

Nature of the business?

We care for anyone who qualifies for hospice with a prognosis of six months or less, living in their private home, nursing home or assisted living facility. Medicare and Medicaid reimburse every hospice the same amount per patient per day. With that, we provide nursing care, home health aides, social workers, bereavement counselors and a medical director. We also have volunteers. We provide medication, equipment and supplies.

Why start this business?

Hospice is my passion. Terminally ill people in Billings and the surrounding area are greatly under-served. I wanted to create a hospice that followed the Medicare guidelines to the letter, while giving from the heart to dying people and their families.

Where did startup funding come from?

Personal money and credit.

How long have you been in business?

Since June 1, 2010.

Your biggest challenge during the current recession?

Difficult to get money for a small startup business.

What was done to overcome those challenges?

We, as owners, are willing to sacrifice our personal gain to be able to use every dollar Medicare pays us to pay for medication, equipment and supplies for our patients while paying our highly skilled staff well.

What is being done to expand the business?

We visit referral sources frequently — hospital discharge planners, physicians’ offices, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, etc. We are slowly starting to advertise. We don’t like the idea of “selling” hospice; but we have to let the patients know that we are here. We know we have a superior service to offer so advertising will help us get the word out to the potential patients.

Your best business decisions?

Hiring a very experienced, skilled and compassionate staff.

Your worst business mistake?

Can’t think of one.

What advice do you have for someone running a business?

Do something you love and believe in very strongly. And have fun.

Number of workers?

Twelve.

What’s your five-year plan for the business?

Continue to serve patients in Billings and the surrounding area. Computerize our nurses’ and social worker’s charting.

A question you would ask other entrepreneurs?

What was your largest obstacle to overcome in your first five years of business?

If you weren’t doing what you are now, what would be your dream job?

This is my dream job.

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