After 24 years of outstanding leadership as the CEO of the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California (CCCC), Judy Thomas has announced her retirement. Jennifer Moore Ballentine has been selected by CCCC’s Board of Directors to fill the CEO role.
Judy Thomas has always had a strong vision of what serious illness care should look like, and she has worked hard to see that vision come to life. With her collaborative leadership style and public policy acumen, Judy has championed California’s efforts to change community standards of practice around health care, making it more person-centered and holistic. California has become a recognized leader in serious illness care, and millions of people have been positively impacted by Judy’s work.
During her career, Judy has achieved a long and impressive list of accomplishments. Among the most notable was the recent securing of $10 million in the state budget to support the establishment of an electronic statewide registry for POLST and advance directives.
Other key accomplishments include:
- establishing and spreading POLST in California so impressively and effectively that the program has become a model for other states
- educating and supporting early adopters of hospital-based palliative care
- providing leadership in diverse groups together to conduct visioning around community-based palliative care in California
- leading efforts to bring together policymakers, healthcare providers, and payers to effectively implement policies designed to increase access to palliative care services for Medi-Cal Managed Care Plan enrollees and set standards for community-based palliative care
- improving California’s advance care planning (ACP) laws, and expanding education and outreach around ACP
- supporting and engaging with more than 25 community-based POLST/ACP coalitions
- positioning CCCC as a thought leader on the topic of cultural sensitivity and serious illness, including creating an educational curriculum and resources used by organizations throughout the state
- empowering people with developmental disabilities to explore and express their medical wishes
- convening long-term care stakeholders to develop the CARE Recommendations: Steps and Tools to Implement Palliative Care in Nursing Homes
- engaging seriously ill people and their caregivers to share their stories and serve as informal spokespersons for palliative care
- creating and hosting an annual conference that brings those involved in California’s palliative care movement to share ideas, learn and grow
- providing interim leadership to the pediatric palliative care community
In addition, California became the first state in the nation to require access to home-based palliative care for Medi-Cal (Medicaid) beneficiaries.
As a subject matter expert in palliative care and advance care planning, Judy has earned a seat at the table in several major public health initiatives. Her ability to work effectively across the political aisle is reflected in the fact that she was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to the Olmstead Committee, by Governor Brown to the Let’s Get Healthy California Subcommittee on End of Life, and by Governor Newsom to the Master Plan on Aging Stakeholder Advisory Committee.
During Judy’s tenure, CMS twice recognized CCCC’s work as a best practice, including creating the CARE Recommendations for nursing homes and CCCC’s web-based COVID Conversations toolkit to support and promote advance care planning during the height of the pandemic.
While she is retiring from CCCC, Judy’s efforts to bring about societal change will continue. “I believe that the palliative care movement is a microcosm of the changes that need to occur at a larger societal level,” said Judy. “This transition will provide me with the opportunity to explore how I can bring what I’ve learned through the palliative care movement to other settings. What this will look like I don’t know. But it’s clear that the need for deep and systemic change in all of our major institutions and society as whole has never been greater.”
“CCCC has grown into a strong and resilient organization under Judy’s dedicated leadership, and with her work on Medi-Cal palliative care funding and the POLST registry, she has created a solid foundation for future growth,” said Robert Moore, MD, CCCC’s Board Chair.
“While we are saddened by Judy’s departure, we are at the same time excited that we have found a seasoned palliative care leader with the right skills and experience to take the baton from Judy,” said Kim Bower, CCCC’s chair elect.
Jennifer Moore Ballentine, MA, is CCCC’s incoming CEO. Jennifer is a long-time national palliative care advocate and educator who has served as Executive Director for the CSU Shiley Haynes Institute for Palliative Care since 2017. She has extensive experience with leading organizations dedicated to advancing palliative care and advance care planning through education, policy development, and practice and systems change. She previously served as President of the Iris Project in San Diego/Denver, as Executive Director of the Life Quality Institute in Denver, and as Director of Programs of the Colorado Center for Hospice and Palliative Care. Jennifer also served as Chair of the Colorado Advance Directives Consortium, where she devised and coordinated a statewide, interagency educational rollout of MOST (Colorado’s version of POLST). She has a master’s degree in End of Life Studies from Regis University. Jennifer’s name will be familiar to many CCCC members. She is a member of the CCCC Advisory Board, has served as a speaker for CCCC Summits and webinars, and in 2020, CSU Shiley Haynes was the recipient of CCCC’s Compassionate Care Leadership Award.
November 1 will be Jennifer’s first day as CEO. Judy will work closely with Jennifer through November 28 to ensure a smooth transition. Thereafter, Judy will continue to serve as a strategic advisor to CCCC to ensure that important initiatives continue to move forward.
Please join us in recognizing and celebrating Judy’s remarkable career and achievements over the last 24 years by making a special donation to CCCC.