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  • 22 Jul 2022 9:07 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Illinois launches 988 number for mental health crises

    Illinois officials said they are ready to roll out 988, the new number for those experiencing mental health crises to get connected with help. [Health News Illinois] 

    The lifeline, which can also accept chats and texts, launched Saturday. 

    “This will bolster the crisis care continuum in Illinois, better connecting people in crisis with call takers trained in suicide prevention, crisis de-escalation and stabilization,” said David Albert, director of the Department of Human Services’ division of mental health, which will oversee the new calling code in coordination with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

    The current state budget includes $70 million to implement the 988 call center and increase staffing at six call centers across Illinois.

    That boost in staffing comes as a report earlier this year from Vibrant Emotional Health, the administrator of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, found just one in five calls to Illinois’ call centers were answered in the first three months of 2022.

    Grace Hou, DHS secretary, told reporters last week they have built the capacity where over 85 percent of in-state calls will be answered in Illinois.

    “The launch of 988 will help people across the state prevent mental health crises from escalating into emergencies,” she said in a statement.

    Suicide is the third leading cause of death for Illinoisans between the ages of 15 and 34, according to Gov. JB Pritzker’s office, and the fourth leading cause of death for those 35 to 44. 


  • 21 Jul 2022 6:16 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Introduction The 91,799 drug overdose deaths that occurred in the United States in 2020 represent an approximately 30% increase from 2019 (1). The COVID-19 pandemic and disruption in access to prevention, treatment, and harm reduction services have likely contributed to this increase (2). Recent increases in drug overdose deaths were largely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (collectively referred to as IMFs) (1,3,4). Deaths involving stimulants, such as cocaine and psychostimulants with abuse potential, (e.g., methamphetamine) also increased in recent years and often co-occurred with opioids (1,3,5,6); some racial and ethnic minority groups were disproportionately affected (6).

    View full paper here> 


  • 20 Jul 2022 5:14 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    A $29.3 million child and adolescent behavioral health center in West Peoria received the green light Tuesday from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board. [Health News Illinois]

    The project by UnityPoint Health will include 44 acute mental illness beds, as well as outpatient services and space for family support groups, education seminars and community services. 

    UnityPoint representatives told board members there is an increasing demand for services in the Peoria region, and that the existing space at UnityPoint Health-Methodist is no longer adequate to address it.

    Jeanine Spain, executive vice president and chief operating officer at UnityPoint Health – Central Illinois, said that 60 percent of children and adolescents over the past three years have had to leave the community to receive care, with the closest hospital specializing in such services 80 miles away.

    “Having your child hospitalized to begin with, and then having to have that transferred out of the community is a bigger burden on families and loved ones, along with the children,” she said. “It's just imperative that we really get behind this project.”

    The project, which the board approved unanimously, is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2023.

    Additionally, the review board approved Rush Copley Medical Center's plan for a $21.3 million modernization of its Aurora facility. The plan calls for more than 15,000 square feet of space to be built above the existing emergency department to house a 20-room observation unit and for the relocation of existing imaging services and equipment.

    David Petasnick, vice president of operations at Rush Copley Medical Center, said recent years have shown the importance of having a clinical decision unit, noting they have had to care for observation patients using the hospital’s ambulatory outpatient area. 

    “The development of the CDU will result in an improved healing environment for all Rush Copley patients by ensuring that all of our patients are going to be in appropriate care settings to receive optimal care,” he said.

    The project is expected to be completed by August 2023.

    The board also approved a $13.2 million plan by OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria to build out shell space to house physician office space at the OSF Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    The project is expected to be completed by June 2024.

    And it unanimously approved a $6.7 million plan to add a 10-bed rehabilitation unit at Kindred Hospital-Sycamore. 

    The project, which fell one vote shy of the six necessary to pass at June’s meeting, was approved after the applicants reduced the number of long-term acute care beds from 69 to 54, which officials said addressed a previous concern that the project exceeded the number of rehabilitation beds needed in the region.

     The board also approved a $952,000 plan to add 12 stations to the existing 12-station Dialysis Care Center Olympia Fields. 


  • 19 Jul 2022 10:58 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

     A new guidebook drafted by experts convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has set forward to provide actionable recommendations for how healthcare organizations can address health equity.

    The guidebook, Raising the Bar, outlines a set of five foundational principles that RWJF and partner organizations said can help healthcare organizations actually deliver on the promise of health equity. 

    Health equity has become something of a buzzword, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the latent health disparities that have long plagued US healthcare. Provider organizations and health systems responded to growing discussions of health disparities by making health equity pledges.

    But although likely well-intentioned, committing to health equity can be an abstract goal, the report authors noted.

    “Broad transformation remains too slow and often focused on narrow fixes to the most visible problems; the healthcare system, as it has evolved, is not delivering on key health goals, frustrates many of its participants, and often fails those most in need,” they wrote.

    READ MORE: Risk of Hospitalization Tied to Food Insecurity, Social Determinants

    “The COVID-19 public health emergency and the national reckoning over equity and racial justice have amplified the importance and opportunity for change and shows the need for a new path for healthcare in recovering from the scope of overwhelming need.”

    Raising the Bar was authored by experts convened by RWJF, including folks at the Funders Forum on Accountable Health, Health Care Transformation Task Force, National Association of Community Health Centers, the National Partnership for Women & Families, RESOLVE, Social Intervention Research & Evaluation Network, Trust for America’s Health and Well-Being and Equity (WE) in the World.

    “Healthcare leaders have made a significant shift in how they view the importance of equity, but operationalizing the commitment requires a very bold and comprehensive approach. Ultimately, it requires taking actions to improve the community, patient care, workforce policy and other areas,” Donald Schwarz, MD, MPH, MBA, senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said publicly.

    “Achieving equity in healthcare is multi-pronged and must ultimately be integrated throughout all operations,” Schwarz continued. “This new framework outlines how healthcare can approach its work differently to achieve much-needed change.”

    Together, the organizations put forward five core principles that should guide organization health equity work, including:

    • Mission: creating a mission to improve health and well-being of all patients
    • Equity: pursuing health equity and racial justice, as well as eliminating discrimination
    • Community: working to serve the whole community as an engaged, responsive, and informed partner
    • Power: sharing and effectively using resources and influence
    • Trust: building, earning, and sustaining trusting relationships with key stakeholders and populations

    READ MORE: Fewer Than 2% of Hospitals Excelling at Health Equity, Value

    In addition to outlining foundational principles, Raising the Bar pointed out key roles healthcare organizations need to play in order to deliver on their promises for health equity.

    Foremost is the provider role with which organizations are likely most familiar. Raising the Bar said organizations need to focus on their strategies to deliver whole-person, patient-centered care that prioritizes health equity by eliminating health disparities.

    That means creating innovative strategies to facilitate patient access to care, creating and sustaining an environment that prioritizes cultural competency and personal safety, and providing holistic and high-quality care that considers the social determinants of health.

    Second, organizations must understand their roles as employers. Most health systems are the biggest employers in their communities, providing jobs to clinicians, administrators, service staff, and other folks that keep hospital operations running.

    Decisions about clinician workforce diversity, equal representation, healthy and safe working environments, and DEI efforts will be crucial in this area, Raising the Bar said.

    READ MORE: 5 Steps to Building the Link Between Public Health and Health Equity

    Next, organizations should look at themselves as partners, something that has come to the forefront as community health partnership has shown promise for improving health outcomes. Involving community members in organization governance, building relationships with trusted leaders and community organizations, and respecting the expertise of those community partners will be key.

    Finally, organizations must understand their roles as advocates with a lot of influence. Pushing for payment reforms that emphasize health equity, engaging the public in the importance of dismantling institutional racism, lobbying for health equity in public policy, and investing in the community should all be paramount for organizations pledging health equity.

    Raising The Bar represents one effort at creating a playbook by which organizations can craft their health equity priorities. Health disparities existed long before COVID-19, but the pandemic served as a catalyst to push many organizations to promise action.

    There hasn’t been an established roadmap for achieving health equity, most experts have acknowledged. But as more organizations begin to broach the issue, Raising the Bar has the potential to convene those experiences into a set of best practices.

    “Long-standing structural and systemic challenges within healthcare are well-known, but the pandemic underscored the imperative to confront root causes of health inequities,” said Karen DeSalvo, MD, Raising the Bar Stewardship Council co-convener, co-founder NASDOH.

    “Raising the Bar solicited input from all sectors and everyone who shares concerns about the current healthcare system, and they all see the need for bold action, but direction on concrete steps to take has been lacking,” DeSalvo added. “Now there is a clear framework to guide the work.”


  • 18 Jul 2022 5:13 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Findings support personalized public health interventions to help close gaps.

    Research supported by the National Institutes of Health shows that cardiovascular-related deaths have declined over the past two decades, but disparities remain. [NIH News 7.18.2022]

    Researchers found that inequities are mostly driven by differences in race and ethnicity, geographic location, and access to care, among other factors. The findings were published in Circulation, and the research was partially funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH.

    In one paper(link is external), researchers analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found that, after adjusting for age, rates of cardiovascular disease-linked deaths dropped among Black and white adults between 1999 and 2019, as did heart disease-related disparities between the two groups. However, Black adults continue to experience higher death rates than white adults, especially in rural or segregated areas, according to the researchers.   

    “The persistent disparities observed in our study likely reflect the fact that Black adults disproportionately experience social, economic, and environmental barriers to optimal health due to systemic inequities and structural racism,” said Rishi K. Wadhera, M.D., a section head of Health Policy and Equity at the Smith Center for Outcomes Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston.   

    Download full article here> 


  • 15 Jul 2022 4:38 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    As the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant spreads nationwide and the federal government is encouraging booster shots for eligible adults, some experts are questioning whether it's time to update the definition of "fully vaccinated."

    COVID-19 cases have increased 16 percent over the past two weeks, while hospitalizations have jumped 19 percent, according to data tracked by The New York Times. The increases come as BA.5 accounts for an estimated 65 percent of U.S. cases, according to the CDC. [Becker's Hospital Review 7.14.2022]

    The Biden administration outlined its strategy to combat this rise in cases and hospitalizations July 12, urging all eligible people to get their first booster dose if they have not done so yet. Federal officials are also considering plans to make second COVID-19 boosters available to all adults, pending sign-off from the FDA and CDC, several administration officials told The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity.

    While research shows BA.5 can evade immunity from vaccination and past infection, vaccines are still effective at protecting against severe disease, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a July 12 White House briefing.

    Some experts have been critical of the White House's decision to encourage booster shots without changing the definition of fully vaccinated.

    "The only new action from the White House BA.5 briefing was an admonishment to 'Get your booster!,'" former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, tweeted July 14. He went on to criticize the administration for not expanding second booster eligibility or changing the definition of "fully vaccinated," which he said currently "implies you don't need a booster."

    Based on the CDC's definition, individuals are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they've received their primary series, which entails two doses of Pfizer or Moderna's vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson's. The CDC says people who receive recommended booster doses are "up to date" on their vaccines and best-protected, but the agency has not formally included boosters in its definition of being fully vaccinated. 

    Eric Topol, MD, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego, has also called for the CDC to change its definition of fully vaccinated to encourage boosters, according to The Hill.

    "What country has a lower booster rate than Iran, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and 61 others?" he tweeted July 11. "The United States."

    Health experts' calls for a definition change are not new; many experts pushed for the change last winter amid the original omicron surge. In January, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said the agency had no plans to require a booster shot for people to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It's unclear whether the agency's stance may change amid the current surge. 


  • 14 Jul 2022 5:36 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Members of the FDA's Patient Engagement Advisory Committee shared their concerns about augmented reality and virtual reality health care devices at the second day of a PEAC meeting on the topic held Wednesday (July 13), asking how reliable information about the technologies would reach patients and caregivers and what role FDA might play.[Inside Telehealth 7.14.2022]

    Sign up and receive this full article here> https://insidehealthpolicy.com/inside-telehealth-daily-news/fda-advisers-how-do-patients-get-virtual-reality-device-risk-efficacy. 


  • 13 Jul 2022 1:43 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    As the highly transmissible COVID-19 omicron subvariant BA.5 now accounts for 65 percent of cases in the U.S., concerns are rising over the potential for a new surge. However, experts predict it will not be as devastating as past surges.

    "BA.5 is doing what omicron does but with a marginally more effective immune evasion," Meaghan Kall, an epidemiologist at the U.K. Health Security Agency Kall, told The Atlantic on July 12. "I don’t believe that it represents a massive paradigm shift."

    COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. have risen 18 percent over the past two weeks, with a daily average of 38,517 people hospitalized as of July 12, according to HHS data tracked by The New York Times. Cases have also increased by 19 percent, with 129,858 new cases as of July 12, Times data shows.

    "People shouldn’t be surprised if they get infected, and they shouldn’t be surprised if it’s pretty unpleasant," Stephen Goldstein, PhD, a virologist at the University of Utah, told The Atlantic.

    Richard Besser, a former acting director of the CDC, told The Hill on July 13 the "sheer volume" of infections would likely lead to a rise in hospitalizations but that he did not think it would be "anywhere near the numbers we saw with the previous omicron surges."  

    Dr. Goldstein also told The Atlantic he takes "some level of comfort" in the fact that other countries have used vaccines to keep the severity of BA.5 waves low.


  • 12 Jul 2022 12:05 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    To curb the COVID-19 devastation on communities of color, vaccine plans must prioritize equity | Do we need to revisit this? 

    To curb the COVID-19 devastation on communities of color, vaccine plans must prioritize equity The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color with rates of illness and death that far exceed their representation in the population. The pandemic also has exposed and worsened pre-existing inequities in access and opportunities, which unfortunately includes access to COVID-19 testing, treatments and, now, vaccinations. Since the initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States in December 2020, more adults have become eligible for the vaccine over time. By May 1, 2021, all adults 18 years of age and older were eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, vaccination disparities have continued to increase despite the expansion of eligibility. 

    Full document- download here> 


  • 11 Jul 2022 6:09 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Now through July 15, CCH will be offering a $100 Visa gift card to anyone age 6 months and older who gets a vaccine or booster shot at a participating Cook County Health hospital or health center. Appointments are required. Gift cards are available while supplies last.

    Make an appointment at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.

    You can also make an appointment by calling the CCH COVID Hotline at 833-308-1988 between the hours of 7:00am and 6:00pm Monday through Friday.

    Provident Hospital’s Sengstacke Health Center has vaccine for adults and children. Appointments for that location must be made by calling the hotline at 833-308-1988.

    The time is now to make sure your whole family is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines!

    The FDA and CDC recently approved the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children 6 months through 4 years. Vaccines for young children are available at all CCH health centers.

    Booster shots are now also recommended for all people age 5 and older.

    Getting vaccinated helps to protect your child against serious illness, and to prevent your child from spreading COVID-19 to more vulnerable family or friends.

    Data show that the vaccines are safe and effective for young children. In fact, they often have fewer side effects from the vaccine than adults.

    Families are encouraged to talk to their pediatrician about vaccination and to get vaccinated at their doctor’s office.

    Children under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

    Beginning on July 16, People who are not currently CCH patients will be able to visit one of five community COVID-19 vaccine and testing sites: Stroger Hospital, Provident Hospital, Arlington Heights Health Center, North Riverside Health Center or Blue Island Health Center. Current CCH patients will still be able to get COVID-19 tests, vaccines and booster shots at their doctor’s office.


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