The Public Square

WILL - The Public Square - August 19, 2011

Connie Georgoulis on Illinois Cares Rx

Hi, my name is Connie Georgoulis. I am a volunteer with Champaign County Health Care Consumers and a member of CCHCC's Medicare Task Force. I'm also a senior and a beneficiary of Illinois Cares Rx, a prescription drug assistance program that was cut in half by this year's state budget. Since 2005, Illinois Cares Rx has helped thousands of low-income seniors pay their Medicare Part D premiums and co-payments and provided discounted prescription drug coverage, allowing them to avoid more expensive health care, such as hospitalization, when they cannot follow their doctor's prescribed drug regimen due to high out of pocket costs.

Beginning on September 1st, anyone currently enrolled in Illinois Cares Rx with an annual income of over 200% of the Federal Poverty Level will lose their benefits. For those still eligible, their co-payments will increase by more than double for many prescription drugs. For most seniors, paying for multiple prescription drugs is already a significant expense, and will only become more difficult to afford after September 1st.

While we still have some time before these changes go into effect, I want to offer a few suggestions to support the more than 200,000 seniors across Illinois who will be impacted by these cuts. First and foremost, don't wait till September when your coverage changes to make a plan. Now is the time to figure out how these changes will affect your monthly budget and health care and prepare for them.

Think back to when you applied for Illinois Cares Rx and whether your income has changed...you may still be eligible! Talk to your local agency that helped you enroll in the program to fill out a new application. In Champaign County, the IL Cares Rx support agency is Family Service Senior Resource Center.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist and ask if there are generics for the drugs you are taking or even free samples. Ask for a 90-day prescription and fill it before September 1st. This way you can get your drugs at the current (lower) co-pay levels for another 3 months.

Finally, other programs are available that can lower your drug costs. Prescription Assistance Programs provided by drug companies and charitable foundations can help with co-pays, Part D premiums, or drug rebates. Also, check out drug discount cards, such as Needy Meds and the Illinois Rx Card, which can be printed directly from the website for immediate use.

If you have questions or need help to plan for these changes to your Illinois Cares Rx benefits, don't wait till September. Call Champaign County Health Care Consumers at 352-6533 or visit us at www.healthcareconsumers.org today!

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WILL - The Public Square - May 13, 2011

Robert Naiman on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Hi, I'm Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, which works to reform U.S. foreign policy so that it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.

The death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan gives us an opportunity to reconsider whether we should keep 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

As President Obama considers how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan this year, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk could help bring our troops home by co-sponsoring S. 186, the "Safe and Responsible Redeployment of United States Combat Forces from Afghanistan Act," which would show support for President Obama's promised "significant" drawdown this year and would also require the President to give Congress a timetable for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is already a co-sponsor of this legislation. 15th district Representative Tim Johnson is a co-sponsor of similar legislation in the House.

While nearly three-quarters of the American public support the withdrawal of a "substantial number of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan this summer" - including the majority of Republican voters - the Washington Post reports that the Pentagon continues to pressure President Obama to make the promised drawdown "small to insignificant".

Senator Kirk's co-sponsorship of S. 186 would help President Obama withstand the Pentagons pressure and begin an end to the nearly decade long war which has taken the lives of over 1,500 U.S. troops and unknown thousands of Afghan civilians, while currently costing American taxpayers more than $100 billion a year.

You can learn more about efforts to press for a substantial drawdown of U.S. troops and a timeline to end the war on our website, www.justforeignpolicy.org

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WILL - The Public Square - April 22, 2011

Nick Quealy-Gainer on Share A Meal with Community Shares

My name is Nick Quealy-Gainer and I am asking people to join us for the 8th annual Share A Meal with Community Shares, next Tuesday, April 26th at restaurants around Champaign-Urbana. Proceeds from the event will benefit Community Shares of Illinois to help support over 70 member non-profit organizations, including 11 in Champaign County, working to address issues such as affordable housing, hunger, health care, civil rights and more.

People can come out and enjoy a great meal with family and friends and give back to the community at the same time.

Six restaurants in Champaign-Urbana will donate 20-30% of their sales to Community Shares and its member organizations.

This year, our restaurants include:

-Siam Terrace in Urbana for dinner -Milo's in Urbana for dinner -Great Impasta in Urbana for lunch & dinner -Black Dog Smoke & Ale House in Urbana for lunch & dinner -Farren's Pub & Eatery in Champaign for dinner, and -My Thai in Champaign for lunch & dinner

If you were already going to eat out that day, we're just asking you to choose to dine at one of these great local restaurants. And if you weren't planning to eat out, you should skip cooking and have a nice meal cooked for you while you support a great cause.

Share A Meal is sponsored by Community Shares of Illinois along with First Midwest Bank, Illinois American Water, Martin, Hood, Friese & Associates and Fasprint.

We appreciate all of our corporate sponsors, but the event will only be a success if people pack these restaurants next Tuesday, so make your reservation today!

For more information about Share A Meal, including a list of our members and participating restaurants, visit our website at www.share-a-meal.org or you can contact us at 352-6533.

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WILL - The Public Square - February 11, 2011

The Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative welcomes Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish

The Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative has arranged for Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish to come to our community for a 2-1/2 day visit this weekend. From world press and Internet coverage given to the tragic death of three of his daughter's caused by Israeli shelling of their home in Gaza in 2009 and, more recently, from publicity given to his new book entitled, "I Shall Not Hate", Dr. Abuelaish has come to be known by many simply as "the Gaza doctor".

The doctor's story is an amazing one. Born into extreme poverty in a refugee camp in Gaza, his Palestinian parents did everything they could to encourage his pursuit of education and, through a scholarship to study medicine in Cairo, he eventually went on earn degrees in Obstetrics and Gynecology in London and to complete a 6-year residency at the Soroka Medical Center in Israel. During and after the residency, he lived in Gaza and practiced medicine in both places, coping with extraordinarily frustrating travel restrictions during his weekly commutes and a paucity of medical resources in Gaza. During this period, however, he gained the respect of many patients and professional colleagues, Palestinian and Israeli, and formed his strong belief that medicine could bridge the divide between the two groups.

Deciding that if he wanted to make a larger difference for the Palestinian people, he needed to acquire management and policy-making skills, Dr. Abuelaish enrolled in a masters program in public health at Harvard University before returning to Gaza and being hired as a senior researcher at a large hospital in Tel Aviv. He was commuting weekly between the two places when his daughters were killed.

As stated on the cover of his book, Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hated, Abuelaish called for the people of the region to start talking to each other. His deep hope is that his daughters will be the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis. After the death of his daughters, Dr Abuelaish formed a foundation dedicated to improving the health and education of women in the Middle East.

Please find time to listen to and talk with this extraordinary guest to our community. He will be at the Urbana Free Library tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. and at the Provena Covenant Auditorium at 4:00 p.m.. He will also be at CIMIC , the local Islamic mosque, at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday before appearing live on WILLs Keeping the Faith at 6:00. There will be opportunities to buy his book and get it signed at some of these venues.

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WILL - The Public Square - February 04, 2011

Lillian Driver on the 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign and Ameren toxic waste at the site

Hello. My name is Lillian Driver and I am a resident of the 5th and Hill neighborhood in Champaign, where the Ameren toxic site is located.

During the past three years, my family and I have been a part of the 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign. With the help of the Champaign County Health Care Consumers, we have been working to make sure that Ameren cleans up all of the toxic waste that has spread into our neighborhood from their former manufactured gas plant. Toxic chemicals from Amerens property, like cancer-causing benzene, have been found in the soil and groundwater in our neighborhood.

Right now, Ameren is cleaning up their toxic property but the Illinois EPA, is only making Ameren clean up the soil on their property, not the toxic groundwater.

Ameren does not have to clean up the toxic groundwater because the City of Champaign passed a city-wide groundwater restriction ordinance in 2007, and under the Illinois EPAs rules, Ameren can use this ordinance to get off the hook for having to clean up the toxic groundwater.

Residents of the City of Champaign and surrounding communities need to know that this groundwater ordinance is bad environmental policy, and it doesnt just apply to Ameren. It opens the door for any polluter, such as gas stations, laundry cleaners, factories and others to contaminate our groundwater with toxic waste, and never have to clean it up.

This ordinance is based on the faulty logic that toxic contaminated groundwater is not harmful to human health as long as people are prohibited from drinking it. However, as a resident of the 5th & Hill neighborhood, I know that toxic groundwater can flood our homes and create vapors that enter our homes, and put our health at risk.

The only purpose of this groundwater ordinance is to save polluters money. But it comes at the expense of the health of the city's residents and it compromises an important natural resource our groundwater.

Fortunately, on Tuesday, February 8th, the Champaign City Council will be holding a Study Session to consider amending or repealing this harmful groundwater ordinance.

Please come and stand with the residents of the 5th & Hill Neighborhood in calling for the repeal of this harmful groundwater ordinance at the Study Session on Tuesday, February 8 at 7 p.m. at the Champaign City Building.

For more information, call Champaign County Health Care Consumers at (217) 352-6533. I hope to see you on Tuesday!

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WILL - The Public Square - November 05, 2010

Beth Kirchgesner on Public Engagement programs offered by the University of Illinois

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a rich tradition of commitment to public engagement. Our faculty, staff, and students engage with the community to help address the needs of society and to advance discovery and the application of knowledge. Public engagement plays an integral part of the University's mission to "transform lives and serve society."

The Universitys goal is to apply the knowledge and expertise of faculty and staff members to issues of societal importance for the public good. By engaging the community, teaching and research are often enriched or led in new directions. But how do we reach the community? How do we communicate the programs we offer and how does the community find information to address their needs?

The Public Engagement Portal, found at engage.illinois.edu, is designed to be the most comprehensive source for information about public engagement programs and events offered by the Urbana-Champaign campus.

You will find descriptions and contact information for a variety of University-related programs and events that are intended for the public, including workshops, seminars, summer camps, and festivals.

Two years ago we started with a vision of a single site that could help connect the Universitys resources with the publics needs. Now we manage a tool that shares about 1,000 ongoing and upcoming programs, with thousands of residents searching the information each month. Weve worked hard to make both searching for and entering information easier, with an emphasis on accessibility.

And now were working to make it more visible. Do you know what programs and events the University offers? Is your information represented? Visit engage.illinois.edu to find out.

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WILL - The Public Square - October 29, 2010

Shirbie Faulkner a Medicare Enrollment Workshop, November 3rd at the Champaign Public Library

Hello, my name is Shirbie Faulkner and I am a Medicare beneficiary from Champaign. I want to tell anyone who has Medicare, or who is caring for someone with Medicare, about a great event coming up next week.

It is a workshop on Medicare and Part D Open Enrollment, and new changes to Medicare under national health reform. The workshop will be on Wednesday, November 3rd at 10:30 a.m. at the Champaign Public Library.

There are some excellent new benefits that were created by national health reform that all seniors and people with disabilities who have Medicare should be aware of. For instance, starting in January, all preventive care, such as annual check-ups, mammograms, and colonoscopies will be covered without a co-pay or deductible. This will save seniors a lot of money and make important preventive care more accessible.

A lot of seniors also have questions right now because the confusing time of the year known as Open Enrollment begins on November 15th. Open Enrollment is the only time of the year when Medicare beneficiaries can look at their current Part D prescription drug plan and Medicare Advantage plan to see if it is working for them and change it if necessary.

We are flooded with information on the different plans and changes for next year and many of us dont know where to turn for help to sort it all out.

That is why the Champaign County Health Care Consumers will be holding a workshop to help us navigate through this hectic and confusing time of year.

The workshop is called Help for Medicare Beneficiaries: New Medicare Benefits and Tips for Part D Open Enrollment. It will be held at the Champaign Public Library on Wednesday, November 3rd at 10:30 a.m.

Bryan Padget from the Senior Health Insurance Program, will take some time to explain the new benefits for seniors that have been created by national health reform and when we can expect to see them.

Andrea Butler from Family Service Senior Resource Center will then speak about changes in the coming year for Medicare Part D and helpful state programs such as IL Cares Rx.

Finally, members of Health Care Consumers Medicare Task Force will also speak about how everyone can get involved in our local efforts fix Part D and protect Medicare beneficiaries rights.

This workshop will be free and open to the public and I would encourage anyone who has Medicare or is taking care of someone with Medicare to join us.

If you would like more information, or to RSVP, call CCHCC at (217) 352-6533. Thank you.

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WILL - The Public Square - October 15, 2010

Durl Kruse on the 10th Anniversary of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center

Hello. My name is Durl Kruse. This year, an all-too unrecognized local institution is celebrating its 10th anniversary. That institution is the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, usually referred to simply as the IMC.

The IMC's mission is to use media production and distribution as tools for promoting social and economic justice in the Champaign County area. It accomplishes this mission through the creation and distribution of media, art and narratives emphasizing underrepresented voices and perspectives while promoting empowerment and expression through media and arts education.

In 2005, five years after its founding, supporters raised funds to acquire the historic Post Office building in downtown Urbana and have put their investment to good use for the community ever since.

During the IMC's first ten years, a number of significant organizations have developed under its broad non-profit umbrella: a monthly newspaper named The Public I, providing an outlet for local voices on social issues; a low-watt radio station, WRFU found at FM 104.5, doing the same but with music and culture thrown into the mix; the Books-to-Prisoners program bringing literacy, learning and personal growth to inmates throughout Illinois; the Bike Project; and many others. It should be noted that the Books-to-Prisoners program won a Governors Hometown Service Award in 2009. Information about these and many more of the IMC's programs can be found on its website ucimc.org.

Tomorrow evening, October 16, from 7:00-9:00 in the Post Office Building at the corner of Broadway and Elm in Urbana, the IMC is hosting an Open House in celebration of its 10th anniversary to offer the public an opportunity to see its facilities, learn about its programs and meet its staff and volunteers.

In addition, dedicated IMC members will announce creation of a Sustaining Fund to insure the financial viability and stability of this vital community institution for years to come. Contributions will be used to pay down the mortgage, underwrite annual physical operations, and provide for emergency expenditures. People are encouraged to consider contributing to the Sustaining Fund and showing their support for the IMC.

Please consider taking some time tomorrow evening to come by and learn more about the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. Thank you.

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WILL - The Public Square - October 01, 2010

Mel Lacy on Ameren’s toxic waste in a Champaign residential neighborhood

Hello. My name is Mel Lacy and I am a resident of the 5th and Hill neighborhood in Champaign, where the Ameren toxic site is located.

I live right across the street from Amerens toxic site, and my wife and I are working with our fellow neighbors as part of the 5th and Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign. The 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign is organized by Champaign County Health Care Consumers, along with 5th & Hill residents. We are working to make sure the Ameren toxic site is cleaned up all the way and that the rights, and the health, of residents and former residents are protected.

I would like to invite everyone to a very special community meeting on Monday, October 4 at 6 p.m. at Provena Covenant Medical Center, to meet with expert environmental consultants who will talk about the 5th & Hill toxic site and the residents concerns.

The Campaign is fortunate to be working with the law firms of Kennedy & Madonna, and Weitz & Luxenberg, and their environmental engineers, Bob Bowcock and Mark Zeko to investigate the toxic site.

Both men have worked on some of our nations most tragic environmental disasters including the recent BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and we are glad to have them working for us.

Mr. Bowcock and Mr. Zeko have begun to conduct tests for toxic vapors in the homes of several neighborhood residents, including my own, to see if the contamination from the site could be spreading to homes, and posing a threat to residents who live in the neighborhood.

The results from their preliminary tests, including those from my own home, show that there is a reasonable concern that the toxic contamination can pose a threat to the health of neighborhood residents. The October 4 meeting is a special opportunity for residents and concerned community members to hear from these national experts about the 5th & Hill toxic site and what it means for groundwater in the area, and for the health and safety of residents.

The experts will discuss the research and testing they have already conducted in the neighborhood, what they are asking of the IL EPA on behalf of the residents, and their experiences working on other sites.

I encourage all neighborhood residents, as well as any concerned members of our community, wherever you live, to come out to get more information and ask questions.

Again, I invite you to join us on Monday, October 4 at 6 p.m. in Provena Hospitals first floor conference room to learn more about the 5th and Hill toxic site and what it means for our community.

For more information, call Champaign County Health Care Consumers at (217) 352-6533. Thank You.

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WILL - The Public Square - September 24, 2010

Cheryl Precious on the 2010 Hunger Symposium, sponsored by Illinois Public Media and the Eastern Ill

Cheryl Precious on the 2010 Hunger Symposium, sponsored by Illinois Public Media and the Eastern Illinois Foodbank
Cheryl Precious on the 2010 Hunger Symposium, sponsored by Illinois Public Media and the Eastern Illinois Foodbank

Right now in eastern Illinois, one in six kids is wondering if there will be food at home tonight.

If you really stop and think about that, its hard to believe. Imagine six kids you know. Who could be your one in six?

Though its often hidden from view in our community, hunger is very real for thousands of children living right here in eastern Illinois. It takes many forms, from a boy getting in trouble for rushing the lunch line at school, to a mom quietly skipping a meal so her daughter can eat.

Indeed, in the fourteen counties that make up the Eastern Illinois Foodbanks service area, more than nineteen thousand kids live in poverty. Many more than that are believed to live in food insecure households.

Meanwhile, there are a number of programs and services, both public and private, that are working to eradicate childhood hunger. There are government-subsidized programs like WIC, the Emergency Food Program, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), and the national school lunch and breakfast programs. Then, there are the collective efforts of a vast network of private nonprofits like food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, after school programs, and dozens of other agencies serving kids.

Is this just redundancy? Or is it a strategic, multi-lateral approach to a problem thats bigger than any singular solution? The answer may be a little of both. But over the years it has become painfully apparent that getting kids fed is going to require the collaborative efforts of many.

We invite you to engage in a conversation about this big and troubling issue. At the end of this month, Illinois Public Media and the Eastern Illinois Foodbank are once again teaming up to bring you the 2010 Hunger Symposium, this year with a focus on childhood hunger. Five expert panelists will discuss the impact of childhood hunger on our kids and our communities, and will help us identify our best potential solutions.

The Symposium will be held at Illinois Terminal on Monday, September twenty-seventh at six thirty pm. All are invited and welcome to attend.

For more information, please visit the Eastern Illinois Foodbanks website at eifoodbank.org.

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