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Health & Wellness

Center gives Illinois perfect score for mental health, substance use disorder parity laws




Illinois came out ahead of every other state in a new state-by-state report of mental health and addiction parity laws.

Typically, when Illinois is compared to other states for financial health, it’s among the worst. When compared to other states for taxes, it’s among the most expensive. Illinois even leads the country in having the most people leaving for other states and the worst credit rating. But The Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity gave Illinois an “A” grade for mental health parity, the highest grade in the nation.

“In advance of the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Federal Parity Law, we examined how states enact strong parity statutes in order to ensure that state regulators have a full set of tools to make parity a reality and to hold both health plans and state officials accountable,” the report card said.

Illinois Department of Insurance Director Jennifer Hammer said it’s rewarding for Illinois to get the recognition. She said mental health and substance use disorder parity means your insurance company is required to treat mental health services the same as medical and surgical benefits.

“So that means when you go to the doctor, your copays need to be the same, the quantitative limitations have to be exactly the same,” Hammer said. “You can’t pay $40 for a visit for mental health and only $20 for a physical health visit.”

A new Illinois law signed this summer by Gov. Bruce Rauner, Senate Bill 1707, requires insurance companies to treat mental health and substance use disorder treatments equally and strengthens the state’s ability to protect consumers.

“After enactment of SB 1707, Illinois now has the strongest mental health and addiction parity law in the country,” The Kennedy Forum of Illinois Executive Director Cheryl Potts said. “By increasing transparency and accountability in the coverage of mental health and addiction treatment, Illinois has built a solid foundation to improve health plans’ compliance.”

Illinois scored 100 out of 100 in the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity state report card. That A grade was the best in the country followed by Tennessee with a C grade, or 79 out of 100. Many states got “F” grades.

Hammer said Illinois’ grade shows the hard work the Rauner administration has done to ensure mental health and substance use disorders are treated the same as other medical conditions.

“With a struggling budget, financial situation, with continued uncertainty out of Washington, and as our department stayed focused on mental health, behavioral health, opioid addiction, we focused our current staff, we didn’t have to upgrade any of the staff, we focused our current staff and came through with an A grade,” Hammer said.

Hammer said the Rauner administration’s focus on mental illness in the overall health of an individual is also crucial to the state’s federal waiver bringing in $2 billion from the federal funds for state pilot programs to make such treatment more accessible and modernized.

“Thirteen state agencies worked with health care advocates to develop a plan to improve delivery of mental health and addiction services,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Illinois’ report card from Kennedy-Satcher said nearly 1 in 6 adults have mental illness and 1 in 7 adults with mental illness are uninsured, both in line with the national average. For young people, 1 in 13 has a mental illness in Illinois, slightly below the national average of 1 in 12, while 1 in 13 has private insurance that does not cover mental health, in line with the national average.

The report card said 51 percent of residents in Illinois are covered by employer-based health insurance, slightly above the national average of 49 percent.

Article by Greg Bishop, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit 

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Illinois News Network, publisher of, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility in the state of Illinois. INN is Illinois’ pioneering non-profit news brand, offering content from the statehouse and beyond to Illinoisans through their local media of choice and from their digital hub at Springfield Daily was granted republishing permission by INN.

Health & Wellness

Davis, LaHood Announce Grant to Fight Opioid Epidemic Awarded to HSHS St. John’s Hospital

Staff Contributor



picture from HSHS St. John's Hospital's Facebook page.

PRESS RELEASE | U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) today announced that HSHS St. John’s Hospital System was awarded a $429,008 Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant from USDA Rural Development that will help fight the opioid epidemic.

These funds will help HSHS St. John’s Hospital address opioid misuse through the purchase and installation of interactive telemedicine equipment. A telehealth network will be implemented at 14 health care facilities in 13 central Illinois counties. Additionally, the grant will provide for eight virtual urgent care sites, two occupational health clinic sites, and four hospital emergency department teleconsult sites. This project will provide access to rural telemedicine for approximately 25,000 rural patients in these communities each year.

“Grants, like this one, help communities fight the opioid epidemic by giving them access to the resources they need,” Davis said. “Residents across the 13th district will benefit from increased access to health care services that will help them recover from opioid misuse. Congress has taken action and just last week, the president signed comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid crisis from all angles. I will continue to ensure communities have access to federal assistance to fight against this epidemic.”

“Our 18th District is comprised much of rural communities across central and west-central Illinois and grants such as this will further help combat the ongoing opioid epidemic that is striking communities of all sizes, all while connecting residents in rural areas with quality healthcare providers in a more prompt and efficient fashion,” stated Rep. LaHood. “Once again, I applaud the USDA Rural Development for understanding the needs of our district and I will continue to advocate for methods that help curb opioid abuse across central and west-central Illinois and provide better access to healthcare to all individuals.”

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Health & Wellness

CDC: Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Infections Linked to Raw Chicken Products

Staff Contributor



CDC | 92 people have been sickened in a recent outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella, including five in Illinois. 21 people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. This outbreak is more worrisome because the Salmonella strains are resistant to several types of antibiotics.

No single source of contaminated chicken has been identified yet. The outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw chicken pet food, raw chicken products, and live chickens. Because the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis is present in live chickens and in many types of raw chicken products, indicating it might be widespread in the chicken industry. The CDC is not advising that consumers avoid eating properly cooked chicken, or that retailers stop selling raw chicken products.

The CDC advises individuals to always handle raw chicken carefully, and cook it thoroughly to avoid contamination. Chicken needs to be cooked at at least 165ºF to kill harmful germs. Properly cooked chicken should not pose a risk of illness. Always wash your hands, utensils, and cooking areas after handling raw chicken. Do not wash raw chicken before cooking. This can cause cross-contamination.

Salmonella Symptoms

  • Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria.
  • The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.
  • In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body.
  • In rare cases, Salmonella infection can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
  • Children younger than 5 years of age, adults older than 65 years of age, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe illness.
  • For more information, see the CDC Salmonella website.

To learn more about this outbreak and food safety, check out the CDC’s website.

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Health & Wellness

River-goers beware: Illinois waterways could contain toxic algal blooms




Courtesy of the Illinois EPA

An organism floating in Illinois’ waterways could mean danger for those looking to beat the heat this week.

The weather conditions have been perfect in the state to create algal blooms in Illinois’ waterways. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is warning that they look like blue-green oil slicks or spilled paint on the water. The blooms give off a toxin that can be absorbed through the skin, ingested or taken in from mist in the air.

“Individuals with compromised immune systems, the elderly, young children are the ones that are most at risk,” agency spokeswoman Kim Biggs said.

Symptoms of exposure to algal blooms include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing or wheezing, according to the agency.

The blooms have been found in two parts of the Illinois river near Hennepin and Marseilles, but Biggs said they could be anywhere in the state’s waterways.

“It could be developing anywhere along the river and actually any waterways in Illinois,” she said.

If you or your pet have come into contact with what you think may be blue-green algae, rinse off with fresh water. If symptoms arise, call the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. If your pet experiences symptoms that may be a result of exposure, contact your veterinarian.

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit 

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