|July 28, 2004|
GOVERNOR SIGNS BILL STRENGTHENING
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a comprehensive public health bill that strengthens the states preparedness and response authority in the event of a bioterrorism attack or a naturally occurring infectious disease outbreak.
While Illinois is one of the best prepared states in the nation to deal with emergencies, this new law will improve the states means to control the spread of disease, whether it be an outbreak of a dangerously contagious or infectious disease or the result of bioterrorism, the Governor said.
The new law expands the power of state government, particularly those of the Illinois Department of Public Health, in the event of a public health crisis. It is effective immediately.
The new law provides for expanded public health powers and authorizes the state to:
The addition of the expanded powers listed above was accompanied by the inclusion of significant civil liberties protections and was drafted with input from a variety of groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Illinois State Medical Society and the Illinois Hospital Association.
While the state must have the resources and authority to take immediate action in order to prevent the spread of disease, the rights of individuals also must be recognized, Blagojevich said. This bill was carefully crafted in to strike the appropriate balance between the needs of government and the appropriate civil liberties protections.
The legislation includes due process protections, such the right to notice, the right to counsel, and an explicit right to refuse certain examinations, testing or treatments.
This important legislation comes as a result of lessons learned during the states participation in the national TOPOFF 2 terrorism exercise last year, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, said. It became apparent during the exercise that the states authority in the event of an emergency needed some improvements and a legal team was immediately convened to help draft this new law.
TOPOFF 2 was mandated by Congress to test the nations ability to respond to terrorism. Illinois volunteered to participate and, in the exercise, the Chicago area was subjected to a simulated intentional release of the plague.
House Bill 5164 was sponsored by state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Chicago).
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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