The Lake County News-Sun - Aug. 28, 2015 | Original article

By State Senator Melinda Bush

We have a heroin crisis in this state. Illinoisans are dying of heroin overdoses at twice the rate they were in 1999. Since 2012, in the Chicago suburbs alone, an average of three people have died a day.

This week, Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto of the Heroin Crisis Act, a proposal I supported in the Senate that seeks to address the epidemic of narcotic use in Illinois.

He declined to sign this bill unless the State of Illinois removes investments in treatment for those who need help covering the insurance costs.

As a society, we are coming to grips with the reality that drug addiction is not a war, but a public health concern — that the answer is not brutish incarceration but medical treatment. Substance abuse costs our nation over $600 billion annually, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, treatment can reduce these costs far more effectively than incarceration.

A year of methadone treatment costs $4,700 per patient. A year of imprisonment in the State of Illinois costs $38,000. According to conservative estimates, every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of $4 to $7 as we prevent drug-related crime. The governor would have us believe that we can't afford to spend money on treatment — the fact is, we can't afford not to.

One of the provisions in the Heroin Crisis Act, Lali's Law, would expand pharmacists' ability to dispense the heroin antidote Narcan. Lali's Law is a direct result of years of work between my office and the bi-partisan Lake County Opioid Initiative, and is an example of the forward-thinking approach we in Lake County are taking to this heroin crisis. Expanded access to a safe and effective heroin antidote will only help save lives.

Gov. Rauner's veto has effectively delayed action on a proposal that passed without opposition in the House and with a strong majority in the Senate; on a solution that every policymaker, every activist, every law enforcement organization and many members of the governor's own party have called for. Instead of having a law that could be addressing this issue now, it could be months before we see one, at a time when people are literally dying each day.

If, like me, you would like to know why Gov. Rauner has declined to act, I urge you to contact him and make your feelings known.

Category: In The News

081815DM0004Lake County News-Sun - Aug. 17, 2015 | Original Article

by Lauren Zumbach

Nykki Harris has two weeks to figure out who will take care of her three week old son before starting a job as a cook and bartender at a golf course.

A few months ago, Harris, a single mom of two from Waukegan, said she would have qualified for a government-subsidized child care program. But cost-cutting measures that took effect in July sharply reduced the amount parents applying to join the Child Care Assistance Program can earn.

Harris said she needs the job to support her family, but she'll be caught between earning too much to qualify for the subsidy, while not earning enough to afford quality child care.

"My cry as a single mother to the government system is to implement something…so parents like myself will be able to go to work, take care of our children, pay our bills, and not just have to be single parents leaning on the state," Harris said at a press conference organized by SEIU Healthcare Illinois, a union representing child care and healthcare workers, State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, and State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan.

Bush, Mayfield and area childcare providers urged lawmakers to provide more funding for the Child Care Assistance Program while reversing changes they said would leave 10 percent of families once considered eligible able to qualify.

Previously, a family of three earning about $37,000 a year or less would be eligible, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services. While families already enrolled in the program will continue receiving subsidized childcare, a family of three applying after the changes took effect July 1 wouldn't qualify unless they earned less than about $10,000 a year.

"Basically, if you are working today, you can't even get minimum wage and be able to get help," said Bush, speaking at a Grandwood Park Park District preschool in Gurnee.

Read more ...

Category: In The News

The Daily Herald - Aug. 3, 2015 | Original article

by Mick Zawislak

The Lake County Forest Preserve District could go to market with a portion of its general office building in Libertyville after a change in state law.

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday signed Senate Bill 791, which allows the district to lease or sell all or part of its former Motorola office building at 1899 W. Winchester Road that is not required for its purposes. The forest district is exempt from property taxes and the amendment to the Downstate Forest Preserve District Act will allow it to rent the space to a commercial enterprise that will pay property taxes.

"We may be in here for the very, very long term but if we want to change something in the future, now we have the possibility," said Ty Kovach, the district's executive director.

There have been no conversations with potential tenants, Kovach added, but the goal is to lease the second floor that comprises about 30,000 square feet.

"If we have a resource, we want to maximize the use for it. We went the legislative route so there were no questions," forest board President Ann Maine said.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, a former county board and forest district member, sponsored the bill. She said estimates showed the district could save millions in operating costs and maintenance over 20 years.

"It's a really good savings," Bush said.

Read more ...

Category: In The News

Senator Bush visits children at Dortha Rivers' daycareLake County News-Sun - July 17, 2015 | Original article

by Yadira Sanchez Olson

Dortha and Estern Rivers' days for the past 21 years have been filled with songs, games and nap times.

In their Rivers Home Daycare in Zion, the couple cares for kids ages 1 to 6 while their parents are at work or school. Now, because of uncertainty over state funding, the Rivers are facing tough choices when it comes to their business and their livelihood.

The couple say they may have to say good-bye to families whose little ones they've cared for since birth, like Jasmine Williams' 2-year-old son Cameron.

Williams depends on the Department of Human Services' Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which provides parents with subsidies for some or all of their day care costs.

The state-funded program has been in jeopardy of losing funding since the last fiscal year when it was deemed underfunded by $300 million, said Maria Whelan, president of the Illinois Action for Children.

"We're looking at $177 million in cuts," Whelan said.

The overall budget cut to CCAP includes three key elements: the elimination of care for children ages 6 and older; no future funding for relatives who stay home to watch children; and an increase in parent co-pays, Whelan said.

Illinois lawmakers have been unable to agree on a state spending plan for the fiscal year that started July 1, and it's uncertain if or when a new state budget will be in place. Providers will be paid for the month of June, but state funding beyond that is unclear.

Until lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner can agree on a budget that funds the program, 612 Lake County home day care providers, like the Rivers, will have to wait and see wether they will receive payments from the state this month. In Illinois about 32,000 day care providers would be affected by the cuts, Whelan said.

For the Rivers that could mean that more than 50 percent of their monthly income would be shorted, since only 3 out of the 10 children they care for are not in the child care assistance program.

Although Dortha said she wouldn't close the day care to the three families who don't depend on CCAP, she's not sure whether she'll continue to work with the families who can't afford to pay.

Williams said her toddler, Cameron, would miss out on being with the people he's known all of his life.

"I wouldn't know who to take my son to while I work," Williams said. "I need to work to pay my bills."

Dortha's not ready to give up yet.

In hopes of sending a message to legislators and to the governor about the importance of maintaining CCAP funding, the Rivers recently welcomed state Rep. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, to their home.

Read more ...

Category: In The News

opioid crisis button