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Mumps, Measles And An Ill Public Health Budget

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Illinois’ lack of budget is threatening rape crisis services,  program that helps women get screened for cervical cancer and the public health network. Senators meeting at the capitol Wednesday heard details of these and other woes. 

There's been a mumps outbreak at the University of Illinois, and measles are back, too.

“The reemergence of STDs – HIV.  The globalization of travel certainly puts these once-thought eradicated diseases back on our doorstep," says administrator of McLean County’s health department Walter Howe. 

Howe says agencies like his are key in helping prevent the spread of such diseases, but the state's budget impasse is “eroding” public health’s abilities -- especially in rural areas. He says the uncertainty’s exceptionally difficult to deal with because it comes on top of years of cuts and turmoil.

“The prime example is the Vermillion County health department, which had 34 nurses when it responded to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009," Howe testified at a Senate hearing. "Today, employees only five nurses – of which two of those are part time.”

Howe says as of this week, nearly a quarter of Illinois’ health centers have laid off staff or cut back hours.

A partisan divide has kept Illinois without a budget since July. 

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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