Biss: No place in enlightened society for gay conversion therapy

Published: Thursday, April 16, 2015 10:41 AM

biss-conversionSPRINGFIELD — In support of a press conference held yesterday by Equality Illinois, other legislative and government leaders and professionals of the mental health community, Senator Daniel Biss (D – Evanston) released the following statement in opposition to gay conversion therapy and in support of a legislative effort to ban such practices.

"Conversion therapy," a practice that seeks to change sexual orientation of gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals, can cause anxiety, mental illness, trauma and suicide. I stand with Equality Illinois, Representative Kelly Cassidy, and many other state and national leaders and organizations in strong opposition to this practice that is harming youth in Illinois.

Many professional organizations of mental health professionals are strongly opposed to this practice because they deem it to be dangerous. It is crucial that we enact legislation as soon as possible to protect our citizens, especially minors, from this risk. It is time for the state of Illinois to stand with President Obama and leaders and experts from across the country and stop putting our children directly in harms' way.

I am delighted to be carrying this bill, and I will continue to fight for the rights and health of the LGBTQ community in Illinois, and to keep our children safe, just the way they are.

Teen REACH elimination would fail at-risk children

Published: Thursday, April 16, 2015 10:18 AM

TeenREACH041615Senator Tony Munoz (D - Chicago) released the following statement regarding the potential loss of funding for vital Teen REACH program:

Many at-risk children never make it out of violent and impoverished neighborhoods. After school programs like Teen REACH were created to educate children and keep them out of trouble.

Unfortunately, Governor Bruce Rauner seems to believe Teen REACH is a non-essential program. He recently eliminated the funding for the rest of this state budget year. He then eliminates it altogether in the next state budget.

Both moves are mistakes.

Teen REACH serves 14,000 youth by providing a safe, fun and productive environment during after school hours. Through the program, youth can receive homework help, tutoring and mentoring and education on reducing risky behavior like substance abuse, criminal activities, violence and sexual activity. In addition to this, REACH organizes recreational activities, sports, cultural and art activities and service learning projects.

As a former law enforcement officer, I know and value the difference programs like Teen REACH make in the lives of at-risk children. We have opportunities to reach these kids now and steer them toward success. Every day that the governor suspends this program is a loss of opportunities and potentially lives.

I am willing to continue work with the governor moving forward, and hope that he realizes what Teen REACH means to our community and state.

Tom Cullerton advances PANDAS awareness initiative

Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 04:31 PM

tcpanda-passesEighth birthdays are extremely important to children. It’s supposed to be a day full of cake, presents and friends. However, this wasn’t the case for Charlie on his eighth birthday.

He woke up on his birthday with unusual symptoms. The little boy who loved participating in talent shows and putting on skits was now scared of performing in front of crowds and talking to his friends. There was an immediate change in his personality.

The next two months of Charlie’s life were the hardest time for his family. He instantly displayed symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Charlie didn’t want to be touched or hugged. He feared his food and was deathly afraid of water to the point where he couldn’t shower or brush his teeth. When triggered, Charlie would go into fits of rage.  He suffered from hallucinations to the extent he was unable to recognize his mother or father.

Charlie’s mother was faced with a difficult situation, either being forced to institutionalize her son or place her other two children in the care of a loved one. After two months of looking for answers, a doctor diagnosed Charlie with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS).

PANDAS is characterized by a sudden onset of symptoms associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome and other tics after a child has had a strep infection. Symptoms range from severe separation anxiety to motor tics that appear similar to seizures and hallucinations. The symptoms are severe enough to prevent children from attending school.

To raise awareness and educate medical professionals, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) passed a measure to create an advisory council to make recommendations to the Illinois Department of Public Health on awareness and education among doctors, school-based health centers and mental health providers.

Early detection is key. After observing Charlie, his mother Kate Drury was quickly able to diagnosis her younger son with PANDAS when he displayed early symptoms.

“No one wants to see young children suffer.  I have three young children at home, stories like Charlie’s display the immediate need to educate medical professionals and the general public on the PANDAS symptoms,” said Cullerton. “It’s our duty to ensure our children don’t suffer. The faster we diagnose children affected by PANDAS, the quicker we can begin treatment.”

PANDAS is potentially a lifelong disease that is estimated to affect nearly 175,000 children and adolescents in Illinois. It has even been found in adults.

Senate Bill 1684 passed the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

Cunningham bill to eliminate annual reapplication of Homestead Exemption passes Illinois Senate

Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 04:02 PM

041415CM0234SPRINGFIELD — Legislation sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) to eliminate the need for an annual reapplication for the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption has passed the Illinois Senate.  
The Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption, a residential property tax exemption for Illinois residents aged 65 or older, is designed to help senior citizens financially.  Most years, the information needed to qualify for the exemption does not change. But state law requires seniors in Cook County to file paperwork annually and in some cases, to make trips to county courthouses to ensure they qualify, creating a hardship for those the exemption is intended to help.
"The current law places an unfair and sometimes confusing burden on seniors," Cunningham said. "Forcing some of our most vulnerable citizens to repeatedly file the same paperwork year- after-year is not only a waste of resources, it could lead to a situation where seniors are denied a tax break they've earned."  
In order to ensure senior exemptions are not awarded to residents who don't qualify, Cunningham's legislation also requires the Cook County Assessor's Office and the Recorder of Deeds Office to set up a communications system to alert the Assessor any time a home receiving a senior exemption is sold. This safeguard would prevent younger homeowners from "inheriting" a senior exemption for the previous owner.  
"By requiring county agencies to share information about housing transactions, we eliminate concerns about fraudulent exemptions being awarded and we shift the renewal burden from senior citizens to government agencies that should be tracking this information," Cunningham said. “This will hopefully give piece of mind to our seniors in Cook County and allow them to live their lives without this time consuming exercise.”  
Senate Bill 1488 now goes to the Illinois House of Representatives for consideration.

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