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  • 11 Oct 2021 3:50 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle last week laid out her proposed $8 billion budget for the coming year, which includes allocating millions in federal relief funds to behavioral and mental health services. (HN IL 10.11.2021]

    The budget includes $60 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for healthcare and access initiatives related to behavioral and mental health programming and services. Another $60 million will go toward equity and justice initiatives like alternatives to 911 for mental health crises.

    “It’s a budget that reflects our values, our commitment to advancing equity and creates a path to an even stronger Cook County,” Preckwinkle said. “I’m proud of our work to navigate this pandemic in a fiscally responsible manner. 

    Nearly half of the budget, $3.95 billion, is allocated for public health. That includes $384 million in charity care, as officials said Cook County Health’s two hospitals provide over half of the county’s total charity care.

    The plan also calls for hundreds of new full-time hires at Cook County Health, including 98 for health plan services and a net increase of 81 in hospital-based services.

    Other provisions of the budget include:

    ·    Funds for renovations and additions to Provident Hospital, including the restoration of ambulance runs and expansion of inpatient capacity at the facility,

    ·    expansion of the neurology, cardiology and oncology services, and

    ·    the opening of a health center in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood.

    The Cook County Board of Commissioners will take up the proposal later this year.

    Read the budget here


  • 8 Oct 2021 2:29 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The Department of Healthcare and Family Services outlined a bevy of recommendations to reform how long-term care is funded in Illinois in a recent report for policymakers. 

    The agency recommends a patient-driven payment model to “improve payment accuracy and appropriateness by focusing on the resident, rather than the volume of services.” 

    It also calls for dedicating funding to staffing increases and workforce transformation, as well as rewarding providers for achieving higher levels of care.

    Other recommendations include:

    ·    prohibiting staffing agencies from having non-compete clauses that keep facilities from hiring agency staff that have been assigned to them, 

    ·    targeting additional federal relief funding to address urgent one-time needs - such as reducing room crowding and improving air quality,

    ·    boosting transparency of nursing home ownership and revenues and 

    ·    requiring HFS to study the impact on equity for residents and pay for workers.

    HFS Medicaid Administrator Kelly Cunningham told members of a Medicaid Advisory Committee’s Public Education subcommittee on Thursday that the report is the summation of over a year of work on how to address rate reform.

    “We look at nursing home rate reform to improve quality and staffing and outcomes for residents,” Cunningham said. “It’s really a moral imperative on the part of the department and it is a message that I think comes across fairly clearly in this report.”

    Download full report here>


  • 7 Oct 2021 2:34 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Cook County Health will be hosting a virtual event on Thursday, October 14 at 6 pm for a “Conversation with Hispanics, Latinos and Latinas in Medicine.”

    Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Health leaders will discuss the historic role that Hispanics and Latino/as have played in medicine, especially in Cook County, as well as touch on the topics that are of most concern for the community, including COVID-19 and mental health.

     The virtual event will be live-streamed on their  Facebook page


  • 6 Oct 2021 1:33 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The COVID-19 pandemic added new obstacles and exacerbated existing barriers to healthy eating and physical activity in 2020 and 2021, and deepened longstanding racial and economic inequities in the United States. Emerging data suggests eating habits shifted, physical activity declined, stress and anxiety increased, food insecurity worsened, and many Americans gained weight throughout the pandemic, a sharp reminder of the effects that underlying social, economic, and environmental conditions have on the health and well-being of Americans. Many of direct and indirect effects of the pandemic fell disproportionally on certain populations, including low-income communities and communities of color.

    Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public health policy, research, and advocacy organization that promotes optimal health for every person and community, and makes the prevention of illness and injury a national priority.

    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided support for this report. Opinions in it are TFAH’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of RWJF.

    Download full report here>


  • 5 Oct 2021 2:27 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force was established by Executive Order 13995, Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery, which was issued on January 21, 2021. Since February, the Task Force has convened every month as part of the government-wide effort to identify and eliminate health and social disparities that result in disproportionately higher rates of exposure, illness, hospitalization and death related to COVID-19.

    This month, the Task Force released its deliberation and vote on final recommendations with proposed priorities, suggested outcomes and recommendations to achieve the outcomes. 

    Proposed Priorities 

    Priority 1 - Empower and Invest in Community-Led Solutions to Address Health Equity 

    Priority 2 - Enforce a Data Ecosystem that Promotes Equity-driven Decision-Making 

    Priority 3 - Increase Accountability for Health Equity Outcomes 

    Priority 4 - Invest in a Representative Health Care Workforce and Increase Equitable Acces to Quality Health for All 

    Priority 5 - Lead and Coordinate Implementation of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Recommendations for a permanent health equity infrastructure in the White House. 

    Download the 79-page report here.  

    To read more, visit the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force webpage on the OMH website.


  • 4 Oct 2021 7:57 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Twenty years after 9/11, COVID-19 demonstrated that our nation’s public health readiness, despite the tireless efforts of committed and skilled public health professionals who have admirably responded, was compromised by disconnected local, state, and federal data systems and disease surveillance capacity; an inadequate medical supply chain to meet the demand for personal protective equipment; insufficient surge capacity to meet the national demand for contact tracing and case investigation, and varied attention to building equity and community resilience activities into ongoing response and recovery efforts. So, do we have the preparedness we need? The answer is mixed. (APHA) 

    Full article> 


  • 1 Oct 2021 6:23 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    President Toni Preckwinkle Announces $75M for Additional Round of
    Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance

    CHICAGO — (October 1, 2021)—Today, President Preckwinkle, County Board Commissioners Donna Miller, Brandon Johnson, and Frank J. Aguilar, the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, and the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) announced another round of Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA 2) to support residents of suburban Cook County who are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability due to the pandemic.

    The program will dedicate an additional $75M, funded through the American Rescue Plan, to provide emergency rental assistance to both tenants and landlords, with prioritization preference given to suburban Cook County’s most vulnerable residents. The program will begin accepting applications on Monday, October 4, 2021, and will remain open until Friday, October 29, 2021.

    “This is a crucial extension of our Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which has provided aid to nearly 8,000 tenants and landlords during this difficult time. It was a top priority for the County to continue this program and make critical improvements, such as covering relocation, security deposits, and other housing-related expenses that our residents so desperately need,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

    Designed to prevent and relieve housing instability for suburban Cook County renters and landlords who have experienced financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ERA 2 can help with up to 18 months of rental assistance. The program will cover past and current utility expenses, or other related housing expenses including relocation costs, security deposits, processing fees, and temporary housing solutions. In addition, under ERA 2, public housing residents and families with Housing Choice Vouchers are eligible to apply for assistance with their portion of rent.

    “Because the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable residents, ERA 2 allows residents and landlords who have received rental assistance from Cook County’s ERA 1 program to apply for an additional three months of assistance,” states Xochitl Flores, Bureau Chief of Economic Development of Cook County. “This program has been instrumental in providing direct rental assistance, preventing evictions, and helping ensure our residents can maintain a stable home, even in the face of unprecedented financial hardships caused by the pandemic.”

    To qualify for assistance under ERA 2, applicants must live in suburban Cook County and rent their place of residence. They must have a current or future obligation to pay rent, utilities, and/or other housing-related expenses and have a household annual income at or below established requirements (ranging from $52,200 for single-person households up to $98,450 for eight-person households). Additionally, applicants must have proof of financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic such as losing income, working fewer hours, being furloughed, needing to stay home because of risk of infection or to care for a child, or incurring significant costs during COVID-19.

    Beyond meeting the eligibility requirements, priority will be given to eligible households that have received an eviction notice, households where at least one member has been unemployed for 90 days prior to applying, households where an individual pays more than 50% of income on rent, and households that are considered overcrowded. Priority applications will be processed before non-priority applications.

    Landlords and tenants in suburban Cook Country who wish to apply for ERA 2 funding can do so by visiting Cook County Covid-19 Emergency Rental Assistance at https://www.cookcountyil.gov/service/covid-19-recovery-rental-assistance-program. All applications are open on October 4 and will be accepted until October 29, 2021. For additional information, visit the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development at https://www.cookcountyil.gov/bureau-of-economic-development, or call (833) 221-9821. Help is available in multiple languages. Residents and landlords dealing with issues surrounding evictions and debt are also encouraged to contact Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (CCLAHD) at www.cookcountylegalaid.org or by calling 855-956-5763 to get free legal aid and mediation services to help resolve issues.


  • 1 Oct 2021 6:07 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Raoul asks Supreme Court to take up case on states' authority to address public health crises. [Health News Illinois 9.30.2021]

    Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul joined nearly a dozen colleagues this week to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case they say would allow states to enact public health policies to prevent opioid overdose deaths.

    The 11 attorneys general signed off on a friend-of-the-court brief to ask the higher court to review a ruling by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that prevents a Pennsylvania nonprofit from operating a safe injection site. The brief argues the medically supervised site would afford those who use opioids immediate medical care in the event of an overdose.

    The organization was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice to block the site.

    The brief argues for the Supreme Court to take the case up to better establish state and local authority to address public health crises, as well as the future of other safe injection sites.

    “Opioid addiction has destroyed lives and devastated families and communities throughout Illinois and the country,” Raoul said in a statement. “States have the right to enact public health measures to best treat and protect their residents as they continue to fight the opioid epidemic.”

    On 9.30.2021, we share an NQF report on the crisis. Read more here https://iomc.org/news/11128989


  • 30 Sep 2021 4:27 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Rural Americans are dying of COVID at more than twice the rate of their urban counterparts — a divide that health experts say is likely to widen as access to medical care shrinks for a population that tends to be older, sicker, heavier, poorer and less vaccinated. [Modern Healthcare 9.30.2021]

    While the initial surge of COVID-19 deaths skipped over much of rural America, where roughly 15% of Americans live, nonmetropolitan mortality rates quickly started to outpace those of metropolitan areas as the virus spread nationwide before vaccinations became available, according to data from the Rural Policy Research Institute.

    Since the pandemic began, about 1 in 434 rural Americans have died of COVID, compared with roughly 1 in 513 urban Americans, the institute’s data shows. And though vaccines have reduced overall COVID death rates since the winter peak, rural mortality rates are now more than double urban rates — and accelerating quickly.

    Full article here

    Download Data Brief here  COVID Longitudinal Data_9.2021.pdf


  • 30 Sep 2021 1:09 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significantly adverse impact on food and nutrition security, though this was mitigated by increased support for federal food and nutrition programs. Poverty increased as businesses closed and families experienced job losses.

    Access, availability, and affordability of nutritious foods has been challenging given consumer financial constraints and supply chain disruptions.

    Food insecurity is defined as being uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food because of insufficient money or resources.1 Specific estimates of food insecurity during COVID-19 vary based on multiple factors, including timing, population surveyed, and methodology, and range from 8% to 38%.2, 3, 4 USDA reported that food insecurity affected 10.5% of U.S. households in 2020, noting the prevalence of food insecurity did not change from 2019.5 It is likely that the benefit increases and flexibilities provided by the COVID-19 recovery legislation helped to prevent the increase in overall food insecurity.

    Food insecurity is historically more common among certain population groups, including seniors, people who have low incomes, and Black, Latinx, and Native American communities.6, 7, 8, 9 USDA’s 2020 data showed that households with Black individuals and households with children did experience significant increases in food insecurity during the pandemic even as overall food insecurity stayed the same.10 

    Download full report here>


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