November 29, 2023

A farewell to Speak(easy) Howard

It is difficult to talk about a time when you would be unable to decide your own health care. Unless you are dealing with an emergency, most of us do not think about who you would want to speak for you and what decisions you would want them to make.

In 2016, the Horizon Foundation created the Speak(easy) Howard campaign to change this – to give residents the tools to take control of their care, to give their loved ones and doctors the information they need and to overall make advance care planning easier.

By engaging the public on four levels – as individuals, through their communities, through local organizations and through statewide systems – the campaign worked to embed advance care planning throughout the community and help normalize having these difficult conversations. We focused on helping residents express and document their end-of-life health care wishes and have those wishes respected by the health care system.

Over nearly 8 years, together with our many community partners, we’ve been able to move the needle. Some highlights:

  • Local data shows that we increased the number of residents who named their health care agent, the person they trust to make medical decisions if they can’t – most dramatically among residents of color.
  • We held numerous community events to encourage advance care planning conversations, such as Speaking Easy Over Dinner, Stoop Storytelling, and a screening of the film “End Game.”
  • We worked with three of our county’s large medical practices to embed advance care planning into everyday primary care practices and provided funding to create an Advance Care Planning Coordinator position at Howard County Medical Center.
  • Together with the Honoring Choices Coalition, we helped pass state legislation to make electronic advance directives easier for residents to complete and for providers to coordinate.
  • In 2022, we produced a best practices report to provide a roadmap for health care providers, nonprofits, and foundations to implement a health care agent initiative in their organizations.

You can learn more about the campaign’s work and successes in this video.

This work has been difficult, but so rewarding. It is with great pride in all that we’ve accomplished together that the Speak(easy) Howard campaign will be sunsetting at the end of this year. Residents will be able to access the website through December 31, 2023, but can still create an electronic advance directive and name their health care agent through MyDirectives at any time.

We’d like to thank all of our community partners who helped make Speak(easy) Howard so impactful. Together, we helped redefine what it means to live – and live well – to the end. We hope the legacy of this campaign will continue for generations to come.

Watch the video>