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Link visits food bank in Waukegan

IMG 1851Waukegan - State Senator Terry Link visited the Cool Ministries Food Bank in Downtown Waukegan recently. Diane Thackston, Executive Director of Cool Ministries, guided the senator throughout the facilities and showed the work they do in the North Shore area.

Cool Ministries has been operating for over 32 years and, currently, it feeds 7,000 people each month.

“I dearly remember my humble beginnings when I had the fortune to have a simple meal before going to school. As a state senator, I work hard to make sure that our children and their parents will not go to school or to work with an empty stomach,” said Link.

Cool Ministries also offer temporally housing options to people in need who meet certain criteria. To do this fine work, they heavily rely on volunteers who are vital to operate.

“Despite the challenging economy that makes it harder to get donations or public funding, our enthusiasm does not cease for helping those in need of a helping hand to get back on their feet,” said Director Thackston.

Tom Cullerton fights pollution for Illinois residents

compostbinsSPRINGFIELD- State agencies may soon be taking steps to become more environmentally friendly.

State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is advancing House Bill 1362 to require state agencies responsible for public land to examine policies to find out if composting materials would assist in reducing storm water run-off and improving the quality of the land.

“Composting is a reliable method to stop pollution, cut costs and clean up contamination. We need to continue to embrace dependable practices to be more efficient as a state,” said Cullerton. “Taking easy steps like this will help protect our environment and sustain natural resources for generations to come.”

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports the environmental benefits of composting include enrichment of soil, cleanup of contamination, preventing pollution and economic benefits by reducing the need for water, fertilizer and pesticides.

“If we want to ensure our children have clean water, air and ecologically safe spaces to be active, then we should continue to look for ways to be more environmentally savvy in Illinois,” said Cullerton.

HB 1362 passed the Senate’s Environment Committee with unanimous support and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

New proposal to aid those coping with mitochondrial disease

mulroe-mitochondSPRINGFIELD –The Senate Insurance Committee heard testimony today from Andrew Lawson, a young man who suffers from mitochondrial disease. A new proposal, Senate Bill 1515, would cover vitamins for sufferers of mitochondrial disease and is sponsored in the Senate by Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago).

“I lost my vision one day when I was in high school,” Lawson said. “I was changing classes and I went from one room to the next, and BOOM, it was gone, like that.”

Lawson is a sufferer of mitochondrial disease, which causes systemic failure because of non-functioning mitochondria. Mitochondria are organelles within the cells of the body that produce the vast majority of the energy humans need to consume to function. Mitochondrial disease occurs when mutated mitochondria in the body stop working. There is no cure.

As a result of his diagnosis, Lawson is on a constant stream of vitamins, as there is currently no medication that corrects this problem. Under current law, health insurance providers do not cover vitamins, and while many over-the-counter vitamins are available, they are not potent enough for his needs and often contain fillers that make absorption difficult.

“Andrew needs something more to truly live his life, because his cells aren’t doing what normal cells do,” Mulroe said. “Moving forward we ought to do everything we can to assist people like Andrew in achieving a better quality of life.”

The measure is currently being considered in the Senate.

Plan to address abuse and neglect at DCFS residential treatment centers passes Senate

morrison-dcfs-042915SPRINGFIELD – A proposed law to address problems at the Department of Children and Family Services has cleared the Illinois Senate. The law would require DCFS to force child care facilities that provide homes to some of the most troubled children in the state’s care to take immediate action when an employee commits an act of abuse or neglect or fails to report a similar incident involving staff or other children.

Employees that endanger kids or fail to report abuse would face immediate discipline.

“These are children who have lived through abuse, neglect and abandonment. We fail them when they are beaten, raped, allowed to prostitute themselves or allowed to run away at a DCFS facility,” said state Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), the measure’s sponsor. “Any employees of a child care organization who are knowingly not keeping these abused and neglected children safe should be disciplined – up to and including losing their jobs.”

Morrison decided to introduce the measure, Senate Bill 1763, after a series of media reports last fall revealed that hundreds of children under the care of DCFS are abused and assaulted at residential treatment centers. These treatment centers are private organizations with state contracts to care for some of DCFS’s most troubled charges. They receive more than $200 million in taxpayer funding each year to provide around-the-clock care to about 1,400 children.

The reports exposed shocking stories to both the public and legislators. Between 2011 and 2013, children in these centers experienced more than 400 incidents of sexual abuse. They also experienced more than 1,000 physical attacks – sometimes from staff. Perhaps most shockingly, there were nearly 30,000 reports of children attempting to run away or going missing.

The legislation, which now goes to the Illinois House, also creates a task force to write new rules for the care of DCFS wards who are the victims of sex trafficking and creates a pilot program to recruit more qualified foster parents to care for children who have severe physical, emotional or developmental disabilities.

“I’ve been working with the new DCFS director, and I’m pleased with the direction he’s taking the department,” Morrison said. “We’re not going to reform DCFS in a day – or even a year – but this agency is so important that we have to make sure it fulfills its mission: protecting innocent children who cannot protect themselves.”

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