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Fourteen former patients of Journey Hospice, which provided home care for the terminally ill, have been transferred to the care of RiverStone Health, Yellowstone County’s public health agency.

The majority of them are patients who receive care in a home setting such as their residence, a nursing home or assisted-living facility.

RiverStone Health is the only hospice provider in the state that is accredited by the Community Health Accreditation Program. And with the closure of Journey Hospice, RiverStone has the only residential hospice home in the community

The transfer of patients to other facilities is part of a plan Journey Hospice detailed for state officials as it closed its 2-year-old business. The owner and administrator of Journey Hospice, Joanna Aspinwall, would not say how many patients Journey Hospice had in its care or if there were more than those absorbed by RiverStone Health.

Journey Hospice, 712 Carbon St., Suite 5, confirmed earlier this month that it was closing. The business was licensed by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services on June 1, 2010. The license was not set to expire until July 31, 2013.

In a Sept. 12 letter to the Montana Certification Bureau, however, Aspinwall detailed a plan for closing the home. The plan includes returning the license/certification to the Certification Bureau on Sept. 30.

It is rare in Montana for a hospice provider to close, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

The closure plan includes:

Transferring patients to other local hospices, giving them and their families their choice of provider, notifying other hospices of incoming patients and helping with patient transfer.

Completing all patient charts.

Placing all office contents, including charts and computer files with patient information in a locked storage unit.

Notifying all agencies of Journey Hospice’s closure.

Billing patients’ insurance providers accordingly.

The closing comes less than two months after Aspinwall announced that Journey Hospice would start a doulah program for its dying patients. A doulah is a labor coach who can help a laboring mother before, during and/or after the birth of a child. Doulahs at the end of life help to usher those who are traveling from this life into the next part of their journey, just as birth doulahs do, according to Aspinwall. They are specially trained to be with people at the end of their life.

Aspinwall opened Journey Hospice in June 2010 with business partner Forrest Kerns. In a Billings Gazette interview in April 2011, Aspinwall said funding to start the business came from “personal money and credit.” At the time, Aspinwall said she employed 12 people.

In an interview this week, Aspinwall said she was “sad” about closing the business.

“It’s just a sign of the times,” Aspinwall said. “We’re just a small business that couldn’t make a go of it. That’s all that’s going on. That’s the whole story.”

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