Before his removal from office, former Governor Rod Blagojevich made it a priority to extend health care to more lower-income Illinoisans. Today more children, their parents and others are covered under state-supervised programs with names like AllKids, Family Care and Illinois Cares RX. But massive budget pressures may make this year's candidates for governor rethink those expansions. AM 580's Tom Rogers looks into what those programs do - and where health care stands in the minds of potential officeholders.
Illinois Public Media News
Draft recommendations from an Illinois task force on nursing home safety are drawing both praise and criticism.
Thursday's report recommends increased staffing for nursing homes. Pat Comstock of the state's largest nursing home trade group says that may be impossible. She says it's already difficult to find qualified workers.
Praise for the report comes from Tony Zipple, who heads a Chicago-based nonprofit agency serving people with mental illness.
Zipple gives the task force high marks for recognizing the need for affordable supportive housing. He'd like the state to do more to prevent people with severe mental illnesses from ever having to move into a nursing home.
Illinois ranks highest in the nation in the number of mentally ill adults under age 65 living in nursing homes.
Work could begin this spring on a new Christie Clinic facility in southwest Champaign. The Champaign City Council endorsed the project at its study session Tuesday night. It will be the first development to go up at the I-57 Curtis Road interchange.
Champaign Council members are welcoming the Christie Clinic project, even though it doesn't quite fit the zoning guidelines being developed for the Curtis Road Interchange area --- guidelines meant to avoid the strip-mall look of the North Prospect shopping district. Despite the discrepancy, council members decided that the Christie project is an important one that will get development started in the area.
But Councilman Tom Bruno says he expects the proposed zoning guidelines to still apply to all future development at the Curtis Road Interchange.
"Because a catalyist is a good idea for the area", says Bruno, "I'm willing to go along with these exceptions. But a future developer would be sorely mistaken if he thought my acquiescence to the Christie project would indicate that this is a starting point for somehow chipping away at the concept we have in mind out here."
Another reason the council supports the project --- Christie officials say that once it's built, they can start work on a major renovation to their downtown Champaign clinic.
The new clinic at the Curtis Road Interchange takes the place of Christie's ill-fated Clearview project, which was planned but never built at I-57 and I-74. Phase One will have 60-thousand square feet of floor space --- with future expansions planned up to 200-thousand square feet.
The Champaign City Council will take a final vote on an annexation agreement for the new Christie Clinic site next month.
A Champaign-based agency that provides care for the developmentally disabled in Champaign, Piatt, Ford and Iroquois Counties set its goals high late this year.
The Developmental Services Center set its Tree of Hope campaign goal for 2009 at 100-thousand dollars. It's the group's largest fundraiser of the year. Last year, the goal was set at 75-thousand dollars, and the community contributed 85-thousand.
DSC Development specialist Nikki Kopman admits raising the goal to 100-thousand dollars was a challenge, given the sluggish economy.
But she says the 83-thousand dollars they've received in donations go far --- with about a month left in the campaign --- makes her confident the agency will reach its goal.
"There was definitely thought on both sides of the fence of 'wow that's really high', but 'we really need it'", says Kopman. "The economy's really bad, but this community really rallies around social services and the needs of the community. We see that personally here at DSC. But any time you turn on the news or pick up a newspaper for this area, our community is very good about lifting everyone else
Kopman says costs for the Tree of Hope fundraiser are kept at a minimum. Local sponsors underwrite brochures sent in the mail, billboards, and the lights for the Tree of Hope itself, a live tree located at the corner of North Prospect and Marketview in Champaign, so that almost all of the money donated can go directly to helping people with developmental disabilities.
Each donation between November 1st of this year and January 30th helps the Tree of Lights campaign. Donations can be made online through the Developmental Services Center website, at www.dsc-illinois.org.
A recall of nearly 5-million doses of H1N1 flu mist vaccine is not expected to impact the availability of the vaccine in Champaign-Urbana and Champaign County.
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde says the recall -- including around 2-thousand doses in Champaign County --- is not due to any safety issues, but simply pertains to the vaccine's effectiveness if no administered by the end of January. The doses of flu mist are made by one manufacturer, Maryland-based MedImmune, which announced the recall. Pryde says her department still has plenty of other doses left of both the mist and injection forms of the vaccine. She also says anyone who received the recalled vaccine doesn't need to worry about its effectiveness.
Pryde says such recalls shouldn't come as a surprise.
"That's not unheard of, certainly for a live-virus vaccine to do that", says Pryde. "You have to keep it under very specific conditions, which we do. We monitor it constantly. The good thing about this is we have received plenty of vaccine now. If this had happened earlier, it could have really caused a problem, as far as people wanting it and not being able to get the vaccine."
So far, about 45-thousand people have been vaccinated for swine or H1N1 flu so far in Champaign County.
Meanwhile in Indiana, state health officials say about 110-thousand doses of the recalled vaccine were distributed --- but about 70-thousand have already been used. Indiana Health Commissioner Judy Monroe says the recalled vaccine poses no safety problems and children who received only one dose of the two-dose immunization series should complete the second dose.
(Additional reporting by the Associated Press)
Some regular activities sometimes get short-shrift over the busy holiday season - donating blood is one of them.
Community Blood Services of Illinois is holding two blood drives Tuesday, hoping to get people into the bloodmobile at a time when donations often trail off. Spokeswoman Ashley Davidson says her agency has tried to plan in advance, knowing that fewer donors and continued high demand combine for a seasonal problem.
"We try to schedule as many drives as possible and we do a lot of in-center calling as well," Davidson said. "We really try to increase our total recruitment around this time, especially if we need certain blood types. We do try to cushion for it because we know at this time of year, our donations do go down."
Davidson says it takes about 500 donors every day in the region to keep the supply of blood at its member hospitals in east-central Illinois adequate. Right now she says there's a fairly serious shortage of type-O blood as well as A-negative and B-positive.
Tuesday's blood drives take place at Urbana's Provena Covenant Medical Center and at the U of I Employees Credit union main office in Champaign.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include identification of the victim.
A 44 year old Cerro Gordo woman was killed Friday when she fell out of a 7th-story window of Provena Covenant Medical Center in Urbana.
The Champaign County Coroner's office says Michelle Foss was being treated at the hospital for an undisclosed illness. An autopsy has been scheduled for Saturday.
Urbana Police say they don't believe foul play was involved in the fall.
A spokesman for the hospital says they're all "deeply saddened" by Foss' s death. Provena spokesperson Trent Pelman says a multi-disciplinary team of administrators, clinicians and support personnel are investigating the fall, with the goal of preventing such incidents in the future.
Vermilion County's Board of Health is considering different scenarios for the future of its health department, ranging from maintaining the status quo to closing its doors.
While state funding remains shaky, Department Administrator Steve Laker says a downsizing remains the most likely scenario. He says the department has received about 200-thousand dollars from the state the last two weeks, providing some relief. But the department is still relying on the county to fund areas like payroll, and can't pay back a loan from the county for 300-thousand.
Laker says the county may have to borrow from a bank to cover a revenue shortfall, but he says one other amusing possibility surfaced recently.
"I got a phone call last week from the state treasurer's office wanting to know if we were interested in special loan funds they had," Laker said. "Are we going to borrow money from the state to counter state funding shortages? It's a possibility. They've got some low-interest loan programs. I referred them to the county board chairman."
The state still owes the department about 600-thousand dollars.
Laker says the health department needs to finalize a presentation for the Vermilion County Board by the end of this week. Its meeting on December 29th will decide the structure of the health department for the immediate future.
All options for downsizing include termination of state grant contracts, and cutting some jobs. Laker says programs that could be on the bubble include maternal and child health programs and nursing home screening for senior citizens.
Illinois health officials have expanded H1N1 flu shot eligibility to anyone seeking one, starting on Tuesday.
And area health departments have responded by scheduling vaccination clinics in Champaign and Danville next week. Champaign-Urbana's public health district holds four days of free clinics that begin Tuesday. That's when anyone over age 64 can receive the shot. Administrator Julie Pryde says supply has been good enough to offer vaccine for walk-ins during the week, along with helping providers like Carle and Christie Clinic. Meanwhile, Vermilion County's Health Department conducts its own clinics on Wednesday and Thursday. Administrator Steve Laker says it's unlikely his department would conduct any more clinics before Christmas, but that could change with the emergence of additional cases of flu-like illness.
"We would immediately gear up and scale our program back up," says Laker. "And we wouldn't have any trouble going back out to remote sites to do that. We've had excellent cooperation from local schools and other organziations that hosted sites, so we wouldn't have any problem. The only thing that might potentially affect that is what resources we have left after December 29th." The Vermilion County Board has scheduled a special meeting for that date, in which it could decide to downsize or dissolve the county's health department because of slow state payments. It's currently owed about $800,000. Laker says if the board did choose to shut down his department, there's no telling how much advance warning his offices would have or how services like vaccinations would continue.
The clinics in Danville are from 10 to 6 on Wednesday and 7 am to 12 pm on Thursday. Vaccinations at Champaign-Urbana's Public Health District run from 9 to 6 Tuesday thru Thursday, and 9 to 1 next Friday at its offices on West Kenyon Road.
Many women are charged more for their health insurance than men, and a health care advocacy group says that's unfair discrimination.
The head of the Champaign County Health Care Consumers says her own experience with group health insurance for the six employees in her not-for-profit group revealed big differences in premium between male and female employees. Claudia Lennhoff says their provider, Personal Care, charges more than double for women in one certain age group than for similarly-aged men.
Lennhoff says ten other states have banned so-called gender rating for health insurance, but not Illinois. However, she says national health care legislation now in Congress could very well address the issue.
"Now if we can get it passed as a national law, as a part of national health reform, UI think that would obviously help everybody all over the country," Lennhoff said. "But if that doesn't happen I think we'll be among the first to champion such an effort in the state of Illinois."
Lennhoff acknowledges that insurers consider the health demands of female policyholders - including childbirth - in figuring their rates. But she claims profits are the main reason behind the different premiums. We've not been able to contact a representative of Personal Care for comment.