More than 40 years after Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard began providing end-of-life services at no charge, the nonprofit, now known as Hospice and Palliative Care of Martha’s Vineyard, is preparing to serve more Islanders by accepting Medicare. That’s just the latest for an organization that has found new ways to expand what a hospice can accomplish with community support.

“It’s been a two-year process [and] a huge investment for the organization,” hospice executive director Cathy Wozniak told the Gazette Wednesday, during a conversation outside her office overlooking Lagoon Pond.

“We’ve had to invest in infrastructure; we’ve had to get more technology and security and more staff, to meet the federal standards,” she said. “The community is going to get the highest quality standard that is available for patients.”

A team of surveyors is expected to descend on the hospice offices within the next two weeks to inspect the operation on behalf of the federal Medicare program, Ms. Wozniak said.

“We’re very ready,” she said. “We had a mock survey, and it was very successful.”

Medicare certification will open the door to serving a wider group of Vineyard families, said Ms. Wozniak, who took the reins at hospice last September.

“We’ll be able to take care of anyone on the Island, particularly those over 65 who have Medicare,” she said. “Everyone will have access — that’s the great thing.”

Along with becoming Medicare-certified, Ms. Wozniak said, hospice also is seeking accreditation by Community Health Accreditation Partner, an independent accrediting organization for hospices and hospitals.

“It’s like having the Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” she said.

When Medicare certification is official — likely by the end of this month, Ms. Wozniak said — hospice will be able to seek federal reimbursement for some medically required costs, such as hospital beds, oxygen and nursing.

But there’s no government support available for its palliative care and community counseling programs.

“We are going to continue to need donations,” said Ms. Wozniak, noting that hospice’s big annual fund-raiser, Summer Soirée at Farm Neck Golf Club on Monday, is sold out.

Hospice also receives ongoing support and donations from Island group and businesses, and relies on a network of trained volunteers along with its growing staff.

“The community is immensely generous and has been supportive … in making sure there was a quality hospice and palliative care organization on the Island,” Ms. Wozniak said. “The volunteer contribution on the Vineyard is very meaningful.”

This high level of community involvement is one of the things about Hospice and Palliative Care of Martha’s Vineyard that attracted Ms. Wozniak, who moved from Florida to take the job 11 months ago after visiting the Island for the first time in her life.

A 30-year veteran of hospice work in states across the U.S., she said the Vineyard organization stands out for other reasons as well.

“I think that our board of directors is superb,” Ms. Wozniak said. “We have quite a few medical people on the board, but also academics and just really well-versed, passionate people that want to be involved. And you don’t see that on every hospice board.”

“The other thing that was amazing is that they were doing community counseling. That was an attraction,” Ms. Wozniak added.

Anyone on Martha’s Vineyard who suffers a bereavement is eligible for 13 months of free, one-on-one counseling through hospice, which also offers support groups.

“There’s hardly any hospices in the United States that do complementary counseling, for anyone,” said Ms. Wozniak. “We will counsel anyone who has a bereavement need, and we have superb credentialed counselors.”

Ms. Wozniak would like to add more complementary programming, such as massage and music therapy, to serve hospice clients more fully.

“We want to add some enhancements,” she said.

Hospice also needs to find new and larger quarters. The program has outgrown its longtime offices at Tisbury Marketplace; the counseling program is already using a satellite office across the parking lot.

“We are going to need a bigger space,” Ms. Wozniak said.

Islanders can expect to hear more about Hospice and Palliative Care of Martha’s Vineyard, its services and its needs in coming months, Ms. Wozniak said: A new education subcommittee of the board of directors is planning to host public outreach events.

“I don’t think a lot of people know that there’s this high quality hospice that’s on the Island,” she said. “We really want to educate the community.”

More information about Hospice and Palliative Care of Martha’s Vineyard, including how to donate and volunteer, is posted online at