SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced a $357.1 million budget for the Illinois Department of Public Health that will enable the Department to continue to partner with citizens and communities across the state to protect and promote the health of all Illinoisans.
The Governor’s budget plan for fiscal year 2006, which starts July 1, includes $119 million in general revenue funds. Although this funding level represents a reduction of 4 percent from the current fiscal year, the Department’s core programs and critical activities will maintain their funding. This includes support for programs aimed at the elimination of health disparities, support of local health departments, women’s health, and disease prevention and control.
“Preventing disease and promoting health are the cornerstones of public health’s mission,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “While we’ll have to work with less, the Department will still be able to continue to improve and protect the health and safety of our residents.”
Blagojevich’s budget plan includes $20 million for women’s health, with more than $12 million allocated for breast and cervical cancer education, outreach and screening. Using a combination of faith-based and community-based organizations and health centers, clinics, hospitals and local health departments, the Department will combine federal and state funds to reach more than 35,000 women, more than 65 percent of whom are minorities, to stress the importance of early detection, screening and treatment for breast and cervical cancer.
“Many of the leading health concerns being faced today impact minorities at a disproportionate rate,” Dr. Whitaker said. “We must recognize that the reasons for health problems in minority communities are varied and unique and the solutions we offer must be equally varied and unique.”
The Department’s budget includes $63.7 million from state and federal resources for HIV/AIDS prevention, outreach, screening, counseling, housing and medications.
“We’ll also continue to address the growing concern of HIV/AIDS among minorities,” Dr. Whitaker said. “More than $3 million will be earmarked to enhance prevention efforts in communities of color.”
While African Americans represent just 15 percent of the state population, they account for more than half of the 5,164 AIDS cases reported over the last three years.
Also included in the Department’s budget is $57 million in federal funds for bioterrorism and emergency preparedness at the state and local level.
“This money will be used to support the emergency preparedness efforts of hospitals, local health departments, labs and other entities in order to improve the protection and response capabilities of the state’s public health system,” Dr. Whitaker said.
As part of that effort, the Governor announced last week the expansion of an electronic disease reporting system that dramatically improves the way public health surveillance is conducted. Known as I-NEDSS, the Illinois National Electronic Disease Surveillance System allows hospitals, doctors and other health care providers to electronically report infectious diseases to the state and local health departments. I-NEDSS is expected to be fully implemented in about four years at a cost of $10 million and will be able to collect information on all 77 state-mandated reportable diseases.
In addition, $14 million was maintained in the Governor’s budget to help fund the operations of the state’s 95 certified local health departments, which provide front-line public health services.