June 6, 2016

Horizon Foundation Announces Speak(easy) Howard Campaign

Horizon Foundation announces Speak(easy) Howard campaign to encourage conversations and planning for end-of-life health care

Howard County organizations invited to participate in learning collaborative with
The Conversation Project starting June 23

Columbia, Md. – The Horizon Foundation has announced the launch of Speak(easy) Howard, a new campaign that aims to change the way people in Howard County talk about and plan for the health care they want to receive in the future. Speak(easy) Howard will encourage residents to take two critical first steps in planning for end-of-life care: have a conversation about health care wishes with loved ones and identify a health care proxy who can communicate these wishes.

“It should be easy to talk about the life we want to live until the very end, and to have that conversation before it’s too late,” said Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president and CEO of the Horizon Foundation. “We recognize that planning for end-of-life care is an important, but often overlooked issue. Our hope with Speak(easy) Howard is that all people in Howard County have their voices heard and respected so that their wishes can be carried out with clarity and peace.”

The campaign kicks off June 23 with the launch of a community collaborative made up of nearly a dozen organizations. Collaborative participants—including faith groups, health care providers, community centers and others—will commit one year to learning and implementing best practices in end-of-life care planning. The collaborative will receive guidance and support from experts with The Conversation Project and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

In 2017, the Horizon Foundation will launch a countywide outreach and promotion campaign for Speak(easy) Howard to expand the collaborative’s efforts to all individuals in Howard County. An important goal is to increase the number of people who have designated their health care proxy, a trusted person who will make health care decisions if they are unable to communicate those decisions themselves.

Another important goal of this effort is to ensure doctors can connect with chosen health care proxies and learn each person’s care decisions so these wishes can be respected. Horizon is partnering with the Howard County government and Maryland’s official health information exchange, Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP), to establish an electronic registry that will allow individuals to designate their health care proxy online, and have that information easily accessible by hospital and medical providers statewide.

“We know that 90 percent of Americans say that talking about their end-of-life care wishes is important, but that only 30 percent of people are actually having these conversations. Our goal is to close this gap,” says Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and co-founder of The Conversation Project. “People fear that speaking to their loved ones about their final days would be too grim, but in reality, these are among the most intimate and meaningful conversations people can have.”

Organizations interested in participating in the collaborative are invited to join. Contact Tiffany Callender, senior program officer at the Horizon Foundation, 443-766-1220 for more information about joining the collaborative or to learn more about the campaign.


The Horizon Foundation is an independent philanthropy dedicated to improving the health and wellness of people living or working in Howard County, Maryland. We invest in strategic grants and initiatives to achieve the greatest impact. We also build partnerships and advocate for public policy changes that advance our mission.