Illinois Public Media News
Sen. Kirk Releases Video on Recovery from Stroke
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has released a second video message detailing his recovery after a January stroke, saying he's in contact with his office several times a day and has climbed 145 flights of stairs.
The three-minute video was released Sunday. It's his second since he began rehabilitation.
The video shows scenes of the Republican senator walking up stairs with help and speaking from his Fort Sheridan home. His office says he recently completed a 9-week mobility study at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. During the study he walked nearly 15 miles and climbed stairs.
In the video, Kirk says he's in touch with his office several times daily and is helping Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin find a replacement for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald who's announced his resignation.
It's easy to be swayed to turn to fast and affordable food that may not be healthy. But in Urbana, there’s a push to teach people the basics of healthy cooking on a budget.
At Urbana High School, Amanda Perez teaches an independent living class that aims to prepare teenagers as they enter the “real world.”
“So, we’re preparing students to live on their own,” Perez explained. “So, a lot of that is focused on the financial career aspect, but what goes into that is, ‘Ok, you’re living on your own. What kind of food are you going to eat because the kind of food that you eat kind of influences everything else you do?’"
Perez is working with teenagers to help them think about think about food differently. Students in the class are required to prepare a healthy meal on a budget with ingredients that meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new dietary recommendations.
The office of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., said Thursday that the Chicago Democrat's medical condition is more serious than staff initially thought or believed.
"Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time," an emailed statement said.
It said Jackson is being evaluated and treated at an in-patient medical facility, and his doctors believe he will be there for an extended period of time, followed by outpatient treatment.
"We ask that you keep Congressman Jackson and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult period," the statement concluded.
This is the first update on Jackson's health in over a week, when his staff said he was on medical leave and being treated for "exhaustion."
The once-rising Democratic star has faced accusations that he signed off on a pay-to-play offer aimed at winning a U.S. Senate appointment from ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Jackson has never been charged and has denied wrongdoing, though the House Ethics Committee is investigating.
In addition, the congressman acknowledged a private marital issue.
Long known for a near-perfect voting record in the U.S. House, Jackson has missed more than 70 straight votes.
Meantime, Jackson's Republican opponent in the November election said the public deserves to know more about the congressman's health.
"My heart goes out to him - keep him in our thoughts and prayers for a good, quick recovery," Brian Woodworth said Thursday.
But on the other hand, Woodworth said, Jackson's office is not being specific enough.
"Somebody who had a stroke like Senator Kirk - it's assumed he's going to be out for a long time. Somebody who's having hernia surgery, you're going to be out for a couple days," Woodworth said. "So, for the public to understand what's going on with the representative, I think there's an obligation to be more open. And that's all I'm saying."
The Second Congressional District, which stretches from Chicago's South Side to past Kankakee, is overwhelmingly Democratic.
Restaurant owners had several months to prepare for the new restriction. The smoking ban become law in March, but it didn't go until affect until the start of this month.
Businesses covered by the policy must remove all ashtrays and post signs stating that smoking is prohibited within 8 feet of an entrance.
Liz Hammer works as a waitress at Benjamin's Restaurant in Covington, and she said business has not been hurt by the ban.
"We've only had two people that have even asked us if we still have smoking," Hammer said. "You know, like most people already know it, and the ones that have we just told them that it's gone statewide and we've had absolutely no problems."
Susan Smith runs the Duck's Diner in West Lebanon. She said she began preparing for the transition about three months ago by creating smoking and non-smoking dining areas.
"I lost, I think, two customers when I separated the two because there were two customers who didn't want to go to back, but in turn, I gained customers because I have a non-smoking dining room," Smith said.
Now, Smith said she hasn't seen a drop in business since the smoking ban started up.
Unlike Illinois where you can't smoke in a public place, in Indiana smoking is still allowed at bars, casinos, horse-racing facilities, retail tobacco shops and private clubs.
Backers of the measure say they want to see the law become more restrictive, while critics argue that it should be up to business owners to allow smoking.
The new state budget eliminates funding for the Illinois Cares Rx program, which helped pay prescription drug costs for low-income Illinoisans. Some of those beneficiaries can find help from other programs. Now, two Champaign-Urbana lawmakers hope to pass a bill to help seniors with no other options.
Before it was cut as part of Medicaid reform, Illinois Cares Rx helped more than 180,000 people with disabilities. The proposed Seniors Pharmaceutical Assistance Relief program would help an estimated 80,000 seniors only. But sponsors Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) in the state Senate and Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana) in the House say the measure would save money in the long run.
'Prescription drugs are part of modern health care," Frerichs said. "If a doctor says this is part of your treatment to regain your health, to retain your health, and someone goes home and says I can't afford them, and doesn't take them, it's going to cause other problems, and those will come back to us in the Medicaid system."
But Jakobsson admits finding the money in recently signed budget will be a challenge.
"I think we're just going to have to look at the rest of the budget, and as some things were vetoed out of the budget, maybe there might be some money to cover this," Jakobsson said.
Jakobsson and Frerichs hope to see their measure voted on during the fall veto session. Meanwhile, they are talking to lawmakers and legislative leaders to build support for their proposals.
Frerichs and Jakobsoon introduced the proposal in both chambers (as Senate Bill 3923 and House Bill 6178) during the last week of the spring legislative session. Decatur Republican Adam Brown is co-sponsoring the House measure.
The Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act's health insurance requirement for most Americans, as well as other elements of the health care overhaul. The High Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that the health insurance requirement for most Americans in the Affordable Care Act was not, in fact, a mandate, but a tax.
Champaign County Restaurants Fail Inspections
(Reported by Pam G. Dempsey of CU-CitizenAccess)
Public health officials continue to give failing scores to restaurants in Champaign County each month, but after more than three years of study they still have not decided how to make those inspections routinely public.
Clinic, Small Business Group, Respond to ACA Ruling
A spokesman for a Champaign clinic helping those with little to no insurance sees Thursday's ruling on the Affordable Care Act as a positive, helping 30-to-50 million people across the country.
But Ben Mueller says Avicenna Community Health Center will still likely see dozens of patients who are undocumented immigrants.
Mueller serves as director of outreach and partnerships for the facility managed by the Central Illinois Mosque. He expects free clinics and hospital emergency rooms to stay in demand until more federal efforts to help immigrants are in place.
Mueller notes President Barack Obama is developing ways to address that, citing the recent order that young people from overseas without criminal records would be exempt from deportation.
"We're in a political year, and the election could bring a whole set of policies," he said. "It's conceivable in the future that legislation such as the Dream Act would provide a path to citizenship. And there's other implications for immigration reform that may provide some relief for persons who do not have health insurance that are currently covered under the Affordable Care Act."
Mueller says there's a lot hinging on policies tied to the Affordable Care Act. He says Medicaid rolls in Champaign County alone have grown from nearly 24-thousand in 2006, to 33-thousand last year.
Governor Pat Quinn says he expects to expand the Medicaid rolls with the high court's ruling, relying on federal assistance.
The Supreme Court's decision also brings to question how it will impact small businesses.
Steven Banke with the Chicago-based Small Business Advocacy Council favors health care co-ops over the exchanges that most states, Including Illinois, have yet to organize.
Benke, who chairs that group's health care committee, says that idea would bring much-needed competition to the market.
He says the difference between the two is a little complicated. Banke compares a health care exchange to the foundation of a building, while a co-op and its insurance companies, are the tenants.
"It's a type of risk-bearing entity or insurance company if you will," he said. "And it will operate on the exchange alongside of all the carriers. So we will be one of those carriers, if you will, that will show up on the exchange, and people will see us right next to Blue Cross, Aetna, United Health Care, and so forth."
Banke says one of the biggest challenges for him to provide coverage to a small office is that no one program size fits all.
He's hoping the exchange or co-op will allow them to get whatever type of health care they need.
For most people, the name Roger Ebert stands out as a man who’s known for giving movies a thumbs up or down. And it’s widely known he hails from Urbana. But to those who haven’t read the famed critic’s memoir, there’s a backstory to a man who didn’t set out to write about film.
Tuesday kicks off the annual "Bike to Work Day" in Champaign-Urbana. If you don’t own a bicycle or if you have a bike that’s gathering dust, then this might be the right day to release the kickstand and take off. As part of our series on efforts in the region to increase health and wellness, Illinois Public Media’s Sean Powers recently ended a long-time hiatus from bike riding to share the stories of people in the community who are passionate about cycling.
(Funded in part by a grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation)
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