Telehealth services high on list of needs in critical access areas

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SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar’s plan to make health care available to more rural children and families through telehealth became law this week.

The initiative allows health care providers on both ends of a telehealth interaction to be reimbursed for costs involved in participating in the interaction.

This means, for example, insurance can reimburse telehealth costs to both the rural hospital where a stroke patient has been taken for emergency care and to the highly skilled stroke specialist in another part of the state who is consulting with the patient and local medical team via computer and webcam.

“Children and families shouldn’t go without medical treatment or counseling – nor should they have to drive three hours for services they – need simply because of where they live,” Manar said. “We have other options today. Telemedicine is one of them.”

Telehealth capabilities also increase access to mental and behavioral health care, which is especially important in rural and high-poverty areas where unemployment, drug and alcohol dependency, food insecurity, housing and transportation shortages, domestic abuse, delayed education and other issues can converge.

However, a shortage of mental health professionals in Illinois, combined with the state’s notoriously low reimbursement rates for providers, has resulted in a crisis of care in areas where it’s most needed. Telemedicine can help fill the void.

The lack of mental health care in rural Illinois and a strong desire for expanded telemedicine services were common themes during discussions on Manar’s tour of hospitals and federally qualified health clinics in his Senate district in November.

“This plan begins to solve a problem in central and southern Illinois by breaking down a significant barrier to mental health care, which is access,” Manar said. “By chipping away at some of Illinois’ outdated regulations, we can help families begin to get more of the help they need in a timely manner closer to home for a fraction of the cost.”

The measure, which was Senate Bill 3049, became law this week. It is an initiative of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association.

“We feel this legislation is a positive first step to improve telehealth coverage, strengthen access to provider networks, contribute to timely care in the most appropriate setting and help facilitate the integration of physical and behavioral health care into hospital and primary care settings,” said David Gross, senior vice president of government relations for the Illinois Health & Hospital Association. “This is why it received bipartisan support in the General Assembly.”

Manar: Money for payment was protected in FY19 state budget

DECATUR – The state is releasing another payment toward the $2.1 million grant it awarded for improvements to the Decatur Civic Center in 2016 – a grant that was suspended by the Rauner administration, then reinstated – State Senator Andy Manar announced today.

The comptroller notified Manar’s office Tuesday that it would release about $200,000 for the civic center grant. Money for reimbursement was included in the FY19 state budget, which Manar (D-Bunker Hill) was instrumental in negotiating.

“As a downstate budget committee chairman, I believe it’s important for everyone to work together and find opportunities to compromise in the interest of the common good. This is what happens when we work together,” Manar said.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant was approved in late 2016. The money was to be used for costs associated with improvements to the Decatur Civic Center. However, in June 2017 – after civic center officials had received seed money from the grant and already had opened bids and signed contracts for projects – the Rauner administration suspended the grant. It was reinstated in December 2017.

Information about the grant can be found here.

According to the comptroller’s office, after this week’s $200,000 payment, the state still owes Decatur $634,539 toward the grant.

Local workforce expected to grow in manufacturing, health care, transportation, skilled trades and more

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DECATUR – Decatur could see 225 new jobs thanks to a $1.5 million state grant that will fund a workforce training program at Richland Community College, State Senator Andy Manar and local officials announced today.

Money for the Richland Community College Workforce Development and Training Grant was included in the current year’s state budget.

“This grant is an investment in Decatur’s future,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who represents Decatur in the Senate. He also is chairman of one of the Senate’s two appropriations committees.

“We know that companies struggle to find qualified workers, and we know that workers struggle to obtain the training and skills they need to be placed in good-paying jobs,” Manar said. “This program will help bridge that gap.”

Richland is partnering with the Decatur Macon County Economic Development Corporation, the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Manufacturing Association, skilled trades locals and local businesses and industries on the initiative.

Most recently, Richland designed the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) three-year AAS plan for local manufacturing employers. This training format was designed specifically for Caterpillar to offer its current incumbent workers the opportunity to continue productivity while upskilling for the employer’s benefit.

This design is intended to grow employees’ and students’ knowledge in work-specific areas – such as advanced manufacturing, manufacturing processes, AutoCAD, turning and milling, fluid power and robotics – to develop a highly skilled workforce committed to its employers, thereby increasing employee retention.

Richland Community College President Dr. Cris Valdez announced the grant and plans for the workforce training program with Manar at the college Monday.

“These training funds are an excellent beginning, occurring at exactly the right time,” Valdez said. “Local industry leaders consistently approach us with requests for trained, responsible and employable individuals.”

The state appropriation will allow Richland’s newest initiative – its EnRich program – to fast-track technical training to up-skill current workers, as well as to grow the workforce via the college’s unique and successful Essential Skills training model.

State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) was present for the announcement, as well.

“I am excited to be able to announce the release of $1.5 million from the state for job and career training at Richland Community College,” she said. “This is a definite step in the right direction, with the goal being to ready our unemployed by giving them the tools needed for future employment.”

In the news

Want a job? Richland Community College just got $1.5M to train Decatur's workforce | Decatur Herald & Review

Manar announces $1.5M grant for workforce training | WAND-TV Decatur

State invests $1.5M in Decatur workforce | WICS-TV Champaign

$1.5M grant to fund workforce training coming to Richland | WSOY-AM Decatur

$1.5M grant to train Decatur-area workforce | WICS-TV Springfield

 

SPRINGFIELD – A measure sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar reinforcing that state jobs should be in the Springfield area became law today.

“Springfield is the seat of our state government, so it is only natural that state jobs should be located there,” Manar said. “I want to thank Representative Jimenez for her hard work on this legislation and dedication to the people of downstate Illinois. This is a measure that has the potential to boost the economy in and around our capital city.”

Under the new law, Sangamon County is now given priority for state jobs if the job doesn’t require a specific geographic location. It does not require current state employees to relocate.

The legislation comes after a 2016 workforce study found that 467 total state jobs could be relocated to Springfield.

The law’s requirements only apply to vacant positions, new positions or positions that become vacant in the future. House Bill 4295 takes effect immediately.

 

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