AUSTIN — A new state law pledges to invest $150 million into local health services whose work focuses on reducing gaps in medical care and improving overall health for people in neglected communities throughout the state.
Gov. JB Pritzker signed the the Hospital and Healthcare Transformation law at Loretto Hospital on Friday. The legislation allows health providers to get funding for community-based services and projects tackling root causes of unequal health outcomes.
“We’re very pleased and proud that the governor has kicked off this great effort to make sure that we deal with the disparities and inequities in health care,” said Loretto Hospital President George Miller.
The law prioritizes providers serving areas where there is a gap in health care access, including safety-net and critical access hospitals.
Community groups and health providers can apply for the first round of funding by April 9 by submitting a proposal online. Other rounds of funding are planned, and the state’s health and family services department will provide assistance and support services for organizations and communities that want to apply for the program down the road.
The funding is an effort to address the deep-seated inequalities in the health system that were aggravated and exposed by the pandemic, Pritzker said. The law will expand access to clinical care and also address the social circumstances that make healthy lifestyles out of reach for many.
“While access to great hospitals is a key part of the right to health care, so too is access to grocery stores, to stable housing, to mental health services, to addiction treatment, to diagnostic and preventative treatments. These social determinants are the backbone of whole health,” Pritzker said.
The plan encourages more collaborative services that can produce better health outcomes and longer life expectancies in communities of color, said Teresa Eagleson, the state’s director for health and family services.
“We heard repeatedly from people in communities just like [Austin], that they wanted to have a voice in creating solutions to the health care challenges they face,” Eagleson said.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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