Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced two public health initiatives today targeting gaps in care for low-income individuals living in Cook County.
A bi-partisan group of County Commissioners, Dr. Raju, CEO of the Cook County Hospitals System, and representatives from Access to Care and the Chicago Dental Society, stood with President Preckwinkle at a news conference to announce the budget amendment to increase grant funding for suburban primary healthcare and restore grant funding for outpatient dental care. Commissioners John Daley, Chairman of the Finance Committee, (D-11th), Jeff Tobolski (D-17th), Tim Schneider (R-15th) and Peter Silvestri (R-9th) applauded President Preckwinkle for working with the County Board to appropriate an additional $1 million in funding to Access to Care to provide primary care to underserved residents in suburban Cook County, raising their contract from $2 million to $3 million, as well as an additional $1 million for outpatient dental care.
“These public health initiatives will be critical to treating our underserved residents at a time when families throughout Cook County are facing difficult economic circumstances,” President Preckwinkle said. “Because we made tough choices in our budget, we can invest in public health to ensure suburban residents have access to a primary care physician and our children can have access to the dental services they need and deserve.”
Preckwinkle and Commissioners noted that by increasing funding, Access to Care will be able to partner with local providers to provide routine medical exams, diagnostic labs, x-rays and prescribe medicine to underserved populations. Approximately 4,350 low-income residents will be linked with a primary care physician through this grant.
They also pointed to numerous reports, including from the U.S. Surgeon General, documenting linkages between poor oral health and a number of other diseases including diabetes, heart and lung diseases, stroke, and low-birth-weight, premature births. Large areas of Cook County have been designated by the federal government as Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and funding for outpatient dental care will help reduce these growing trends.
“I applaud President Preckwinkle for showing the financial leadership and great vision to work closely with Commissioners to restore funding to these important public health initiatives,” said Chairman Daley. “It is a great example for other elected leaders to follow.”
Also supporting the amendment are Commissioners Joan Murphy (D-6th) and Deborah Sims (D-5th).
“Access to Care is a vital institution that will help provide suburban residents in need with the health care that they deserve. President Preckwinkle has shown that she puts a priority on all of the County’s residents and I’m proud to support this amendment.” Commissioner Murphy said.
“Better Dental is imperative to improving the health and well-being overall, and funding this has been a priority for both myself and the President. I hope to continue to work with the President and my colleagues on the County Board to promote positive change in public health in Cook County,” Commissioner Sims said.
Also in attendance at the news conference was Victoria Bigelow, CEO of Access to Care and Joe Flanagan, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Access to Care and Dr. Cheryl Watson-Lowry and Dr. Loren Feldner from the Chicago Dental Society.
The funding for the budget amendment will be offset with revenue from the Private Party Use Tax.