health care

The Citiesscape Part 5: B/N's 'Social Vulnerability' Exacerbated by State Proposal?

Social vulnerability is defined as “the weakened resilience of communities when confronted by external stresses on human health,” such as natural or human-caused health issues or disease outbreaks. Higher social vulnerability levels often track with racial diversity, low SES, old age, limited transportation, low-quality housing, and population density.

A recently released Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal study by Illinois State University students and ISU’s Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development cites numerous points of vulnerability for a key segment of the Twin Cities populace.  

And according to Louis Goseland, director of the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans’ Caring Across Generations (CAG) campaign, nationwide trends, federal and state budget debate, and gubernatorial proposals to retool and cut funding for major Illinois home care could mean even greater vulnerability for low-income, senior, and diverse other Central Illinoisans.

CAG is a national movement of families, caregivers, people with disabilities, and aging Americans working to “transform the way we care in this country.” The movement uses online action, grassroots organizing, and “innovative culture change” work to improve health policies and practices, with an emphasis on “shifting how our nation values caregiving” and calling for solutions “that enable all of us to live and age with dignity and independence.”

Currently, Goseland and Co. are focusing on the Community Care Program, which provides home care services to nearly 90,000 seniors across Illinois, enabling them to remain at home and or in their communities instead of being forced into more costly nursing homes. The services provided by home care aides through the CCP include help with meals, laundry, housework, and errands, and costs to maintain individuals in the CCP program are $10,000 annually, versus nursing homes which cost in excess of $55,000.

But while the program has enjoyed bipartisan support, budget concerns have prompted Gov. Bruce Rauner to propose moving non-Medicaid seniors into a new “Community Reinvestment Program,” potentially imposing new hardships and costs especially on lower-income seniors and their families. Beyond slashing state funding for homecare services by $120 million, the governor’s plan would call on seniors currently accustomed to home care aides providing transportation to doctor’s appointments instead to take an Uber or other unfamiliar and questionably reliable transportation “from strangers.”

Proposals like that raise a variety of issues, from seniors’ technical capabilities and physical limitations to potential inconvenience and added costs for poorer working families. Overall, the CRP "really creates a more complicates system of care for people who aren't enrolled in Medicaid."

Goseland , who relocated from Kansas to Bloomington nearly two years ago, knows firsthand how dramatic health care/home care shifts can devastate a family.

“I have kind of a personal interest, because of the experience my family had when my grandmother fell ill, just realizing how just how much a lack of access to care impacts not just the person who is in need of that care, but also the entire family structure,” relates Goseland, who served as a professional community organizer for nearly 11 years, working on political campaigns, with college students, and in research into Trump administration appointees, before discovering CAG.

“When I was about 13, my grandmother, who had problems breathing, was in need of care, but in Kansas, there just wasn’t access to a sufficient sort of state-funded home care program. So my mom, who’d been happily employed at a union job, making a good wage, ended up having to drop that and move us to a rural part of the state in order to care for my grandmother. My mom had to take on whatever she could in terms of employment just to keep food on the table, but the work opportunities were so bad that she ended up taking on multiple jobs. My mom, who was part of what’s called the ‘sandwich’ generation, cared for her mother as much as she could while needing to be a mother herself and taking on multiple jobs just to try to make thing work.”

Goseland sees Illinois as fortunate in having the Community Care Program (“I wish we’d had that in Kansas”). It has grown by more than 105 percent over the past 10 years, and “demonstrates the critical need for the state to invest more into its aging population.”

But Rauner’s untested Community Reinvestment Program would remove 36,000 non-Medicaid seniors from CCP care and shifts many home and community-based services to regional or privatized systems which according to CAG would diminish quality of service.

All that with a “complicated system of vouchers and a revolving door of service providers,” and no guarantee funding would be available for non-Medicaid seniors in need of services, Goseland warned. The Illinois Department on Aging would be given unlimited authority to make program cuts at any time.

Instead of enabling home care aides to make healthy meals for seniors, the CRP would provide meal vouchers that might not provide some older Illinoisans reliable daily nutrition. Instead of a home care aide doing housekeeping and laundry, the state would contract new and unfamiliar laundry and housekeeping  services.

The Community Reinvestment Program lacks basic provider standards the Community Care Program imposes to protect senior safety and prudent funding use. It requires no licensure or certification requirements nor basic disclosure requirements for providers necessary to monitor or maintain quality of care.

And from a taxpayer standpoint, CAG argues Rauner’s plan could incur higher long-term statewide costs. “For every senior who is forced into a nursing home, the state could end up paying $15,600 or more annually than it would pay for that senior to remain in the Community Care Program,” Caring Across Generations maintains.

That’s amid what CAG sees as an already “unprecedented Elder Boom” -- every eight seconds, another baby boomer turns 65. That’s four million Americans per year and almost one in five Americans by 2025. By 2050, the number of Americans who will require some form of long-term care and support will double to 27 million.

Aside from "countless" Medicaid-eligible Illinois seniors who aren't enrolled, cost of care is expected to increase significantly for those whose income stream precludes Medicaid eligibility. "They're still facing a significant economic hardship" under the CRP, warned Goseland, who argued CCP funding "if anything should be supplemented" before the state institutes a privatized, voucher-based system.

"This is also a question of values," he said. "Are we as a state going to treat the growing longevity of our citizenry as a burden or a blessing?"

Not only seniors and families are impacted by the ongoing health care crunch -- the home care workforce makes a meager average $13,000 a year, leaving many caregivers to rely on public assistance.

The ISU/Stevenson Center study cites “overrepresentation of (health) services on the Eastside of Bloomington-Normal and the clustering of services along Veterans Parkway, Main Street, and Market Street.” Immanuel Health Center on Morris Avenue currently is the only health clinic located within Bloomington’s West Side.

West Side residents “in general are further removed from services than their East Side counterparts,” the team concluded. Public transportation can deliver residents to those services, but these trips often require seniors to make multiple transfers and can represent an additional economic and time cost “some residents cannot afford,” researchers concluded.

“Health care services in Bloomington-Normal were classified as hospitals, clinics, minute/quick clinics, psychiatric hospitals, orthopedic doctors, optometrists, dental offices, physical therapy centers, cancer care centers, and assisted living (including nursing homes and hospice),” the study details. “This abundance of services is helpful for the Bloomington-Normal residents, but there is a clear disparity in access to these services for all citizens.”

At the same time, the ISU report notes a higher prevalence of industrial sites and sources of pollution on the Bloomington-Normal’s west side. Most of Bloomington’s black population lives within the most vulnerable areas, subjected to more acute environmental hazards and sources of noise, smell, and air pollution.

Further, many areas of West and Southwest Bloomington are at a higher risk of flooding, while a major railroad junction runs through West Bloomington, surrounded by a number of industrial facilities and exacerbating both safety and health risks.

ISU Study: Problems Persist in B/N, 'Less' Today With NIOTBN Help

This is Part 1 of a multi-part examination of Bloomington/Normal's challenges and successes in bridging social, economic, racial, and cultural concerns.

ISU's Frank Beck reviews conclusions of student researchers during a NIOTBN Steering Committee review of the study at Moses Montefiore Temple.

ISU's Frank Beck reviews conclusions of student researchers during a NIOTBN Steering Committee review of the study at Moses Montefiore Temple.

Key problems persist in the Twin Cities, according to a study by ISU students with the Stevenson Center for Economic and Community Development. But significant progress is being made, in part through efforts by NIOTBN and other local groups, "A Community Report on Intolerance, Segregation, Accessibility, Inclusion, Progress, and Improvement" concludes.

The Not In Our Town chapter in Bloomington-Normal recently asked two classes of students at Illinois State University to document intolerance, discrimination, segregation, disparities of access, and disparities in the criminal justice system in the twin cities. In this report, using archival material, secondary data, and primary data, the students examine these issues from the mid-1990s to the present. Not In Our Town also wanted to understand their position in the community and some strategies for future success, through an analysis of other organizations in the country similar to Not In Our Town.

The conclusion: “Bloomington-Normal was and is intolerant; discrimination did and does take place in this community; we are segregated. The community is also less of these things than it used to be and is less of these things than other places — thanks in part to the efforts of Not In Our Town.”

Interviews and focus groups document difficulties, progress, and hope for the future among community leaders, social service agencies, elected bodies, advocates, and law enforcement. Residents discuss systemic issues and the role of Not In Our Town in addressing them. Residents shared experiences of discrimination and intolerance from police, employers, and other community members. Some of the quotes drawn from the conversations “are powerful and are evidence of work yet to be done,” the study stressed.

Discrimination by law enforcement and a lack of access to quality food, health care, and employment are highlighted. Persons promoting racial equality, LGBTQ advocates, and residents provide ideas for future balance.

For example, data on traffic stops in eight Central Illinois cities and from the McLean County Detention Facility show inequities. Blacks are stopped more often and arrested more often than their share of the Bloomington-Normal population would predict. Vehicles driven by blacks are searched more often, yet drugs are more often found in vehicles of White drivers. Normal police stop vehicles at a far higher rate than police in the larger cities of Springfield or Peoria; the pattern is "quite stark." Without taking into account severity of charge, blacks that are arrested spend more time in the jail.

Bloomington-Normal is segregated, but far less than other Central Illinois communities, the students found. The index of dissimilarity for Bloomington-Normal shows that approximately 40 percent of black households need to change their residence in order to integrate each neighborhood to the same extent, across both cities. Since at least 1980, this number declined for Bloomington-Normal. Champaign, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, and Urbana experienced declines in their segregation too, but their values are still higher than Bloomington-Normal. We find that Springfield is the most segregated of these cities; the interaction index also shows Springfield to be the community where blackss are least likely to interact with a White person and vice versa.

One team of students mapped diversity in Bloomington-Normal against locations of health care facilities, tobacco and liquor stores, groceries with fresh produce, predatory lending establishments, banks, schools, and transit routes. There are disparities in access to these community attributes and the disparities differ by diversity of the neighborhood. In all, West Bloomington suffers from a lack of access to health care and fresh produce. Diverse neighborhoods have more access to fast food and convenient stores than they do quality grocers. Transit routes connect patrons to health care offices/facilities, banking, schools/community college, etc., but the costs in time are high. Predatory lending establishments are located on the community’s main routes, but proximate to economically disadvantaged populations.

The work of seven aspirational organizations from across the country is presented in the report. Based on the strengths of Not In Our Town, the Best Practices group identify characteristics of these model organizations that can further the local chapter’s efforts. From bylaws to organizational structure and activities, recommendations are made to increase participation, capacity, and credibility. Therefore, this project can help Not In Our Town identify its next steps.

“As community developers know, there is much to learn when we speak to one another about the state of affairs in our communities; not only can we better understand the situations our neighbors are experiencing, we can gather in collective action to work toward improvement and progress,” the study concludes. “This is the essence of Not In Our Town’s work and dedication.”

Camille: Resolutions and Resolute Action

Camille Taylor

WJBC Forum

Rather than make resolutions I don’t keep, I focus on my hopes and dreams for the New Year. Here’s my list.

I hope to increase my advocacy for things I support, as well as things I’m against. I will use a variety of information sources to learn how best to advocate such as news updates from the League of Women Voters, Organizing for Action, and Action 36. I plan to be vigilant about what our legislators at the state and national level are doing and won’t hesitate to contact them to share my thoughts whether it involves the lack of an agreement to develop a state budget or the intent of the Republicans to repeal Obamacare.

I will be closely watching the new president, hoping that he will demonstrate responsibility and respect for the position he was elected to. I will not be silent if he chooses to be the Commander and Chief via Twitter using harmful and inflammatory rhetoric like he did during the campaign, nor will I be silent about cabinet choices who have demonstrated divisiveness and harm to our country via their past policy and/or business decisions.

I hope to increase the presence of the Not In Our School efforts locally, as well as continue to work with Not In Our Town to make our community more safe and inclusive for everyone. I hope to connect more with family and friends even without the benefit of social media. I don’t want to ever lose that “personal touch” that lets people know I care about them and love them.

I hope I’m healthy and strong, so that I can continue to care for those I love. I dream that students who depend on financial aid for college and people who have basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter can be served despite the stalemate in Springfield. I hope and dream for peace in our world whether domestic or abroad.

I hope that people will take the time to look at their source for accurate news as opposed to reading ‘fake news” and then using this information to make decisions and form opinions. I hope I learn new things this year and use that knowledge to benefit others. Last, I hope that people begin to acknowledge that “words matter,” and being polite and using good old fashioned manners should not be the exception, but the rule.

Center Addressing Concerns About Physician Sensitivity


Proponents of a health care clinic in central Illinois designed to meet the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex population say such a facility could help limit discrimination against those individuals.

 Speaking during Sound Ideas, Len Meyer, director of the Central Illinois Pride Health Center, said it's often difficult for those not out to maintain a degree of privacy. 

 "It could be explaining they have a same sex partner or they identify masculine, but they still haven't changed their birth, legal name to reflect their identity," said Meyer. 

 Meyer says physicians often discriminate seemingly without realizing it.

 "An example is a lesbian going in to see her doctor and say 'what form of birth control are you on?' You have a same-sex partner," said Meyer.  Meyer said it makes one wonder if the doctor is just checking off the boxes and not really listening to the patient. 

Organizers, including Central Illinois Pride Health Center Board President Jan Lancaster, are in the process of raising funds to establish non-profit status for the clinic, which could open within a year. They're also reaching out to the medical community and currently offering some services.

"Len's reached out to everyone you can think of  as a board.  I think we're all reaching out to our community. We already offer a youth group which is growing every week and we offer a parents group. These things are in the initial stages," said Lancaster. 

"The goal is to have our medical director in place and then bring in advance practice nurses and nurse practitioners and they can see the patients," said Meyer. "Those doctors who want to get involved, we'll add them as they come. Our goal is to try to make sure the clinic is able function and not cost a lot of money to do it. Using advance practice nurses and nurse practitioners the cost is a little less than having a doctor."

Len estimates a full service clinic would cost $3-4 million. A recent fundraiser brought $3,000 in the door. Lancaster says she hopes she sees the clinic established in her lifetime.    

Advocate Plans Central Illinois LGBT Clinic/Center

Paul Sweich

The Pantagraph

Community advocates hope to open, by next June, Central Illinois' first health clinic and community center for the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer or questioning, and intersex populations.

"Our vision is to provide health care, mental health and social support to the LBGTQI community and its allies," said Len Meyer, executive director of the Central Illinois Pride Health Center. Meyer and health center board President Jan Lancaster spoke with The Pantagraph on Friday.

The goal is to provide primary health care, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics and hormone replacement therapy within three years.

But they hope to open the center next June, beginning with meetings and mental health counseling.

The board is working on its 501(c)(3) status to be tax-exempt and is searching for space, Lancaster said. The center already sponsors a youth group, and a parents group will begin meeting in August, Meyer said.

"We want to offer our community a safe atmosphere to get care and to not be made to feel less of a person," Lancaster said.

Meyer is a retired emergency medical technician who is operations manager for Merry Maids, the Normal-based residential cleaning company. Meyer has a bachelor's degree in health care administration.

Lancaster, who owns The Bistro in downtown Bloomington, is a member of the Bloomington Human Relations Commission and vice president of the Downtown Bloomington Association.

Meyer is transgender. People who are transgender don't identify with the sex of their birth.

Meyer has been put off by doctors' offices whose choices for patients' sexual identity was male or female. One doctor didn't understand transgender issues and didn't care, Meyer said.

Lancaster said Meyer's experience isn't unique. The result is that LBGTQI people are less likely than others to seek primary care, Meyer said.

"There definitely is a need for this in our community," Lancaster said.

Asked why the group doesn't focus on education and advocacy rather than opening a clinic, they said education and advocacy take longer than growing a clinic.

"The time to do the clinic is now," Lancaster said. "We are trying to add to the quality of care in Central Illinois. We are not trying to replace existing doctor's offices."

Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center were given opportunities to comment.

Tony Coletta, Advocate BroMenn human resources vice president, said: "Advocate BroMenn is supportive of any group that is working to improve the health and well-being of members of our community.

"Our own organization has made a concerted effort to be inclusive and sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQI community ... Through ongoing leadership and staff education in health care-specific areas of diversity and inclusion, we continue working to ensure that our processes, communication and environment work together to create a welcoming atmosphere for all of our patients and their loved ones."

A fundraiser for the center — in partnership with YWCA McLean County — will be 6 p.m. Aug. 17 at The Bistro, 316 N. Main St., Bloomington.

"Our mission informs us to provide justice for all," said Jenn Carrillo, YWCA mission impact director.

Project Oz Program Focuses on LGBT Youth

Build your strength as an ally for LGBT youth through a new program sponsored by Project Oz. 

Beyond the Rainbow, Tuesday, June 28, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Illinois State University Alumni Center at 1101 North Main Street, Normal, will focus on current research and trends, terminology, and definitions associated with LGBT youth, and discuss ways to create a culture of inclusion in the workplace and community.   

This training is relevant for anyone who wants to support LGBT youth, including school personnel, human service agencies, university staff, health care providers, and corporate employees. It is presented by Bonn Wade, LCSW.

Wade holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and has worked in Chicago- and Miami-based social service agencies for the last 19 years.  Bonn joined Chicago House as the Director of the TransLife Center in 2012, is an appointee on Cyndi Lauper’s Forty To None Project, and serves on the boards of The LYTE Collective and Task Force & Community Social Services.  Bonn’s co-trainer, Monica James, has 20-plus years’ experience as a community organizer, and is currently a board member at the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois.

For questions, email or call 309-827-0377.

Mike: Make McLean County Autism Friendly

By Mike Matejka

WJBC Forum

April is autism awareness month.   A new initiative is being launched in our community, with the ambitious goal to make McLean County an Autism Friendly Community.

Autism is a very unique disability.  There is no physical characteristic of people with autism.  Some have multiple disabilities.  Some individuals on the autism spectrum are very quiet, shy and reticent.  Others are very talkative.   Some individuals are extremely intelligent.  That’s why it’s called an autism spectrum – there is a wide variety of abilities and disabilities.

What does it mean to be autism friendly?  It most especially means being sensitive and not pre-judging an individual.   Someone who doesn’t make eye contact might not be threatening, they might have autism.  Someone who nervously flaps their hands or repeats a particular body movement might be more than nervous, they might have autism.  Someone who comes in for a job interview and seems very shy and difficult to connect might make a great worker, but their autism makes it difficult for them to relay what they CAN do.

The diagnostic numbers continue to grow.  The Center for Disease Control now says that one in 45 U.S. school children are on the autism spectrum.  Just four years ago, the number from the same agency was one in 88.  It will take scientific work to explain this rise in diagnosis, but the numbers continue to rise.

So what can we do to make McLean County an Autism Friendly community?   Number one, learn about autism.  Many people still stereotype people on the autism spectrum as either someone rocking in the corner or as a savant.  There are many communication, speech and social difficulties that come under the autism label.   Learn about that variety.  Be open to people with autism – sometimes a little patience goes a long way.  Underneath that social hesitancy is often a very delightful individual.  People with autism often are very insightful, as they see the world around them very literally and will speak honestly.  Their perceptions can aid us all.

My adult daughter is a very intelligent individual with autism.  She once made a fascinating comparison to Alice in Wonderland. Alice falls into the rabbit hole into a world that lacks logic, totally confusing Alice. My daughter noted that is how she feels every day. Because she has trouble with nuances of speech, inflection and body language, she is often confused by what others communicate.  But if you take the time to communicate clearly, you’ll find a very thoughtful young woman.  Let’s make McLean County Autism Friendly.  Welcoming and getting to know this population can enrich us all.

Mike Matejka is the Governmental Affairs director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, covering 11,000 union Laborers in northern Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. He lives in Normal. He served on the Bloomington City Council for 18 years, is a past president of the McLean County Historical Society and Vice-President of the Illinois Labor History Society.

Patricia: Caregiver Scrutiny Crucial to Curbing Elder Abuse

Patricia Marton

Elder abuse prevention advocate

I have been rereading the (McLean County) Mental Health Action Plan, and continue to be impressed by the material and names that are included.  However, there are still questions that I would like to have answered.

They include the effects the plan could have on the elderly, not only in private homes and nursing facilities, but in public facilities that they frequent. Namely are the people running such facilities capable both intellectually and emotionally of handling difficult situations that might arise, and how can we determine this.

For abuse of the elderly continues to be a world wide phenomena.   

What can we do to help?  We must, I believe, continue to tighten and implement hiring procedures, Here we can draw on the police for suggestions and support, for they have detailed procedures that they follow to ensure that their applicants are equipped for the job. This includes not only background checks, but oral interviews before a panel, physical exams, and moreover psychological exams and lie detector tests.  Indeed, one officer that I met at a recent coffee gathering had a degree in psychology from the University of Illinois.

Some of these procedures could and should be interpolated into our hiring programs in public facilities.    For, as many of us already know, such facilities are not always safe places, especially those dealing with people of disparate ages, and we need astute administrations that can both acknowledge and deal with this, and not pretend that it doesn’t exist.

It’s also up to all of you (the City Council), for you are elected to take care both of the city’s institutions, and the people who live here.  And to be aware of our needs and fears, and develop procedures that can protect us, especially those of us who are particularly vulnerable, for the legal penalties against those who harm us are particularly strong.  Many of you are also older citizens, and should be proud of this, which should give you an additional impetus to do this. 

Also, the City of Bloomington is an entity unto itself, though part of a county of towns and villages.  While we should cooperate with our neighbors, we must also make our own decisions as to what is best for ourselves.

Finally, I spoke to both Laura Beavers of the Health Department and Tom Barr of the Center for Human Services— both highly recommend the Mental Health First Aid programs sponsored by a number of community organizations as a mean of identifying the signs and signals of mental illness.  These programs last throughout the whole year. This is another way we can learn to help each other too.

Women's Wellness Seminar Examines Indian Practices

Dr. Ashlesha Raut will share and discuss women's everyday health and well being through practice of our ancient medicine Ayurveda during the Women's Health and Wellness Seminar, from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Hindu Temple Of Bloomington And Normal, 1815 Tullamore Ave, Bloomington.

The event is open to all, please bring your friends to learn how we can integrate yoga, meditation, good diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle through Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India, Ayurveda has been enjoying a major resurgence in both its native land and throughout the world.

In the United States, the practice of Ayurveda is not licensed or regulated by any state. Practitioners of Ayurveda can be licensed in other healthcare fields such as massage therapy or midwifery, and a few states have approved schools teaching Ayurveda.

The seminar is co-sponsored by the McLean County India Association.

Group Focuses on Bringing Dignity, 'Personal Capacity' to Charity Efforts

Representatives of local non-profits, agencies, and churches joined Monday to explore new ways to help the community’s disadvantaged, disenfranchised, and currently disconnected – and, perhaps more importantly, help them help themselves.

And while one local minister at Home Sweet Home’s (HSH) Forging A Better Way meeting on Bloomington’s east side emphasized “there isn’t a single person here who’s being ‘served,’” he and others agreed those who need essential services and assistance should play an expanded role in determining how local charities structure and administer them.

"The Forging a Better Way task force has outlined the goal of restoring a sense of dignity, worth, and personal capacity to our charitable systems,” concluded participant Luella Mahannah, counseling director of Integrity Counseling, on Bloomington’s west side. “At the meeting tonight, it became clear that we must include the ‘consumers’ of charitable services in developing and delivery of such systems. To not engage those in need will lead to continuing to develop mechanisms that could likely be enabling rather than empowering."

Working off major focus areas identified recently by an HSH steering committee, the group explored issues including:

* Money/Income-related interests (debt reduction/asset building, loan alternatives, fiscal fitness, employment opportunities, etc.). A major focus of the group Monday was the importance of developing low-income finance alternatives to local “payday loan” services that according to New Covenant Community church Social Justice Group representative Pam Lubeck too often “jack up” weekly fees, exacerbating already burdensome debt. That “snowball effect” impacts the financial stability of many families dependent on payday lenders, HSH’s Matt Burgess stressed.

Mid-Illini Credit Union, which operates a branch at Bloomington’s Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, offers low-volume loans free of fees to neighborhood residents, while Next Step, a partnership between Mid Central Community Action, United Way of McLean County, Heartland Community College, and the University of Illinois College of Law provides free services to help individuals and families gain financial independence. HSH’s Faith and Finance classes help the mission’s displaced and disadvantaged clients learn about budgeting, spending, and future saving – Burgess reported eight to nine individuals recently completed a recent class conducted at Bloomington’s The Hub.

Monday’s participants also were enthusiastic about the possibility of “microloan” programs similar to international financing options that can help launch promising but income-strapped enterprises. Such programs have spurred development of small-scale, grassroots local businesses in Africa, Asia, and South America, and participants suggested they could be used as an “incubator” for cooperative neighborhood economic development.

“When you invest in micro-credit, you get your money back,” Lubeck noted.

She and others agreed financial education and awareness should begin early, so teens receiving their first paycheck can start from a position of security. Afterschool programs and school-based curricula and extracurricular activities could help offer that education.

* Health concerns (both physical and mental health, as well as issues relating to substance abuse recovery). Even as new health care law rolls out slowly to improve options for low-income Americans, a number of key issues face disadvantaged communities, including coordination of services, basic transportation to and from health care providers and resources, state funding cuts that endanger preventive programs that help reduce future health care costs, and the impact of mental health issues on employment, housing, and law enforcement/incarceration.

Especially challenging are the issues of health care access – first-time and low-income mothers-to-be currently must travel to Peoria for prenatal services and counseling – and cost – health insurance premiums remain high, and as one participant said, even out-of-pocket deductibles that lower premium costs “clobber” low-income families.

HSH is helping address the needs of essentially landlocked west side residents through its mobile health unit that travels the community twice a month, with two exam rooms. The McLean County Board of Health’s Cory Tello notes that each month, doctors visit Normal’s Fairview School – the area’s currently sole “community school” that serves as a hub for supplemental medical and other area services. She maintained additional community schools could help multiply health options for the Twin Cities.

Fundamentally, Bloomington-Normal’s underserved communities need “a full continuum of services, from pre-birth to senior care,” Tello maintained. Community colleges and area universities could play a role in expanding low-cost or non-profit services while training future providers.

* “Neighboring” concerns – how to be a good neighbor within the community. Local churches, organizations such as HSH the Boys and Girls Clubs, and schools already cooperate in providing outreach and support for disadvantaged youth and others throughout the community, but Monday’s participants saw the need to developing new mentoring relationships, referral options for providing ride assistance for low-income or physically challenged residents, and art programs that could inspire and “empower” young people.

Bloomington’s John M. Scott Health Resource Center handles transit where needed for maternal and child visits; Faith in Action is an interfaith network of volunteers, churches, and community organizations that assist individuals over 60 and their caregivers. The McLean County YWCA’s Stepping Stones program counsels victims of sexual assault, and Integrity Counseling and Heart to Heart offer mental health services at rates low-income clients can afford.

But costs again are a key factor in expanding or even maintaining existing services. John Scott lost its vision program in December, and there currently are no convenient transportation options for Medicaid patients who must travel to Peoria for oral surgery.

Cultural Festival 36 Years of Family Fun

Cultural Festival will celebrate 36 years as a community summer tradition on July 25 at the Illinois State University Ballroom in the Bone Student Center. This year the festival theme is “The Happiest Place in Central Illinois”

The festival’s primary purpose is to promote and foster appreciation for a variety of cultures through entertainment and educational activities. It’s also a forum for community organizations to promote and conduct positive activities for civic, patriotic, educational, and social purposes. It is further intended to provide good, wholesome fun activities and entertainment in a family atmosphere.

The free festival is a wonderful time with a little bit of something for everyone. One festival highlight is the main stage entertainment, featuring nonstop performances and activities throughout the day.

Entertainment & Activities
The lineup of talent will be an exciting mix this year, ranging from the Sugar Creek Cloggers to the first Cultural Fest Lip Synch battle. The Children’s Village is another big hit with both parents and youngsters. The village is a special kid zone filled with fun activities and crafts, a big bounce house and face painting by the Zoo Lady. Also Sponge Bob Squarepants will make his first appearance at Cultural Fest, he will be roaming around the Children’s Village with some great giveaways for the kids.

Health & Wellness

Health and wellness will also be promoted during this year’s festival, the McLean County Health Dept. and the 100 Black Men of Central Illinois are partnering to provide a variety of fun and educational health and wellness focus activity and information including Health & Wellness Bingo at 2 p.m. (ISU Circus Room).

 For more information about Cultural Fest, booth registration, or Lip Synch contest entry visit our website:

MCLP Class of '15 graduates March 7

Five local organizations will get a boost towards their goals as the Multicultural Leadership Program (MCLP) Class of 2015 concludes its community service projects on Saturday, March 7 at Heartland Community College's Astroth Community Education Center Building (the second floor auditorium).

Beginning with a 7:30 a.m. continental breakfast, this public presentation is offered 8 to 10:45 a.m. Five MCLP teams will share how they put servant leadership into action, dedicating six months’ time and effort to help five local non-profit organizations achieve the following:

 Community Health Care Clinic — study the feasibility of a dental clinic and a five-year budget program

Immanuel Health Care — develop strategies to increase name recognition

Meadows at Mercy Creek — support staff development to enhance skills and better serve residents

Prairie Pride Coalition — assess LGBT community needs to help redefine goals and outreach

Challenger Learning Center — enhance fundraising efforts

Immediately following the project presentations, MCLP will offer an information session 11:00 AM to noon to share about future MCLP opportunities, including how to apply for the MCLP Class of 2016 program year. Local nonprofits interested to submit proposals for next year’s MCLP class projects may apply online at

Radio Interviews Offer Previews of Team Experiences: Tune in to Susan Saunder’s show on WJBC AM 1230 every Friday at 10:05 a.m. through March 6th to hear interviews with the MCLP project teams; and to WXRJ’s Ursula Crooks’ “What’s Going On” show 12-2 p.m. on Saturdays through March on FM 94.9.

For more information, see or contact MCLP Executive Director, Sonya Mau at or call 309-556-3589.

Heart Association: Social Environment Can Affect Kids' Health

Bigotry and bullying bad for the health? A new study may suggest as much.

Children with favorable "psycho-social" experiences may have better cardiovascular health in adulthood, according to research in the January 27 American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Positive psycho-social factors include growing up in a family that practices healthy habits, is financially secure, is a stable emotional environment and where children learn to control aggressiveness and impulsiveness and fit in socially.

In a Finnish study, participants with the most psycho-social advantages in youth scored higher on a cardiovascular health index in adulthood than those with the least psycho-social advantages.

Cardiovascular health index was calculated by looking at activity level, cholesterol and blood pressure control, healthy eating and weight, blood sugar control and stopping cessation.

Results from the study revealed that those with the most psycho-social advantages in childhood had a 14 percent greater change of being a normal-weight adult, 12 percent greater chance of being a non-smoker as an adult and 11 percent greater chance of having a healthy glucose level as an adult.

"The choices parents make have a long-lasting effect on their children's future health and improvements in any one thing can have measurable benefits," said Laura Pulkki-Raback, study author and research fellow at the University of Helsinki.

Researchers initiated the project with 3,577 children and teens ranging from age 3 through 18 and measured socioeconomic status, emotional stability, parental health behaviors, stressful events, self-regulation of behavioral problems and social adjustment.

Twenty-seven years later, researchers assessed 1,089 of the original participants to determine cardiovascular health.

Favorable socioeconomic status and self-regulatory behavior — meaning good aggression and impulse control — in youth were stronger predictors of ideal cardiovascular health in adulthood.

"Scientific evidence supports the fact that investing in the well-being of children and families will be cost effective in the long run because it decreases health care costs at the other end of life," Pulkki-Raback said.

Gender and Needs Part 1: Health Care Providers Eye LGBT Issues

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patients experience barriers to health care that include fear of discrimination, as well as insensitivity and lack of knowledge about LGBT-specific health needs among providers, according to new study by a recent Illinois Wesleyan University student and her Illinois colleagues.

The study, published in the Journal of Nursing Education, examined the effectiveness of educational strategies designed to improve knowledge and attitudes of baccalaureate nursing students regarding LGBT patient care.

Education focused on key terminology, health disparities, medical needs of transgender patients, and culturally sensitive communication skills for competent LGBT patient care. Individual knowledge levels and attitudes were evaluated before and after the "intervention," using a survey based on a modified "Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men Scale" and two assessment tools developed for this study.

A statistically significant increase in positive attitudes and knowledge levels was found immediately after the intervention. Findings from the study -- co-authored by Carle Foundation Hospital Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit nurse Kristy Strong -- support the inclusion of education related to LGBT patient health care in undergraduate nursing curricula, to promote "cultural competence and sensitivity."

At the time the article was written, Strong was an IWU student. She collaborated with Victoria Folse, director and with Wesleyan's School of Nursing.

A number of U.S. hospitals have tailored programs for LGBT patients and their families, focusing on special concerns such as potential substance use, parenting issues, and domestic and homophobic violence, as well as specialized medical care programs for lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals.