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Collins urges governor to sign religious garb discrimination ban

woman 851893New law would prohibit punishing employees’ religious garb or hair

CHICAGO – With a non-discrimination measure awaiting the governor’s signature to become law, State Senator Jacqueline Collins and State Rep. Theresa Mah joined Muslim and Arab-American advocates in Bridgeview today to call on the governor to act and make it a civil rights violation for an employer to impose any condition that requires a person to forgo any sincerely held religious practice or attire.

Senate Bill 1697 passed the General Assembly in June. Representatives of the Mosque Foundation, The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago and Arab-American Family Services joined Mah and Collins to speak on the importance of the legislation in today’s political climate.

Cunningham: MAP grants critical for local economy (VIDEO)

cunningham52617SPRINGFIELD—Senator Bill Cunningham discusses the importance of MAP grants to Illinois colleges and students in a video released today.

“If we’re going to make our state a better place to live and make sure people are upwardly mobile from an economic standpoint, map grants are a very important part of that,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham’s comments are in response to a letter to alumni from Saint Xavier University, a private college in Chicago, explaining that it is owed $6.4 million by the state of Illinois for promised Monetary Award Program grants to students. This is money that is not going into the local economy, Cunningham said.

To view the video: click here

In May, the Illinois Senate passed a balanced budget that would properly fund MAP grants for local colleges and universities, including Saint Xavier.

Senator Cunningham represents portions of Worth, Orland and Palos Townships in the southwest suburbs and the neighborhoods of Mt. Greenwood, Beverly, Morgan Park and Auburn-Gresham in Chicago. 

GOP budget cuts retired teachers’ health insurance

Sen. Scott BennettSPRINGFIELD – Health insurance programs for retired teachers will be cut in the so-called “Capitol Compromise” according to the Illinois Retired Teachers Association. The budget makes a 30 percent cut to the Teachers Retirement Insurance Program, also known as TRIP.

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), who opposes the cuts to the program, issued the following statement:

“Cutting insurance benefits for retired teachers is not the right way to balance the budget. Not only is it extremely unfair, it is potentially unconstitutional and will just lead to more litigation instead of a long-term solution for fixing our finances.”

Tom Cullerton fights to ensure insurance companies cover costs for children’s healthcare

tc 062717SPRINGFIELD— Children may soon no longer be denied treatment for PANDAS disease, thanks to Villa Park Democratic State Senator Tom Cullerton. 

Cullerton’s lifesaving initiative that will require Insurance companies to offer coverage for treatments of PANDAS — Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections — passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support. 

Cullerton has been working with the group PANDAS/PANS Advocacy for the last four years to raise awareness and require insurance companies to cover the cost of treatment for this fairly unknown disease that affects approximately 1 in 2,000 children throughout the United States.

“As the father of three young sons, I know as a parent you do whatever you can to protect your children from unnecessary pain,” Cullerton said. “I have been honored to work with these incredible advocates from PANDAS/PANS Advocacy, to support Illinois’ children in receiving essential treatment and raising awareness of this tormenting disease.”

Cullerton first became aware of PANDAS four years ago after meeting with the group formed by Executive Director Wendy Nawara and Vice President Kate Drury of PANDAS/PANS Advocacy & Support, whose children have suffered from PANDAS to raise awareness of symptoms and to require insurance companies to cover the cost of treatment for this fairly unknown illness.

PANDAS and PANS is the result of an abnormal immune response to common infections such as strep throat, walking pneumonia, mononucleosis and other similar infections.

Drury saw a drastic change in her son Charlie overnight, who once loved performing in talent shows and putting on skits. He woke up on his 8th birthday scared of crowds and of talking to his friends.

After two months of looking for answers, a doctor diagnosed Charlie with PANDAS. Insurance companies didn’t cover the cost for his treatment, which can run upwards of $12,000 in hospital bills.  

“As a parent, it is so hard to watch your child completely deteriorate in front of your eyes. You go to the doctor, get a diagnosis, and then are unable to access the treatment that doctor prescribes. The biggest problem our families have faced is that we've not been able to rely on our insurance plans to cover the doctor recommended, medically necessary care required,” said Nawara.  “This treatment gives our kids their lives back. We have needed this for a long time. Our families are so grateful that Illinois is taking these steps to help us."

HB 2721 will provide that all individual and group plans of accident and health insurance must offer coverage for treatment PANDAS and PANS. Once this measure is signed into law it will be known as “Charlie’s Law.”

Symptoms range from severe separation anxiety to motor tics that appear similar to seizures and hallucinations. There is a drastic change in behavior that often becomes severe enough to prevent children from attending school, not completing basic tasks like taking a shower or accepting a hug from their loved ones and avoiding extracurricular activities due to social anxiety.

Cullerton pledges to continue to work to raise awareness and support to help children like Charlie.

“There are effective treatments for children inflicted with PANDAS and PANS,” Cullerton said. “It’s common sense to make sure there is treatment readily available to quickly treat children inflicted with PANDAS without loading Illinois’ parents with mountains of debt.”

House Bill 2721 now moves to the governor’s desk for consideration.  Cullerton is hopeful the governor will approve this measure.