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Pritzker Announces Telehealth Program For COVID-19 Patients, And Mental Health Support Line

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Illinois residents who have COVID-19 symptoms or may have been exposed will be able to recover from their homes with the help of a new patient monitoring program.

The governor announced the statewide program Saturday. Those who are sick but don’t need to be in the hospital will have daily virtual visits with health workers. They will also receive wellness kits with alcohol wipes, thermometers, and blood pressure cuffs. 

Dr. John Vozenilek, chief medical officer for innovation and digital health for OSF Healthcare systems, said the program will ease the burden on hospitals, which is key to Illinois’ response during this crisis.

“We will connect to them digitally, we will connect them with human beings, and we will connect them to trained personnel who can care for them,” Vozenilek said. “And if it is necessary, they can get a higher level of services immediately.”

Residents must call the hotlines to confirm their eligibility for the Remote Patient Monitoring Program.

The hotlines are divided by region. OSF Healthcare is working with the state to provide this service in parts of central Illinois, including Peoria/Bloomington, Champaign/Urbana, Evergreen Park, Danville, Galesburg, Kewanee, Monmouth, Ottawa, Mendota, Streator, Pontiac and Rockford. The number is 833-673-5669 and is available now. More information is available on their website.

SIU School of Medicine is providing the service in central and southern Illinois, including Springfield, Quincy, Decatur, Carbondale, and Metro East communities. That number is 217-545-5100 and will be available starting Monday. More information is on their website.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which is coordinating the service, will announce a hotline for the northern region of the state next week.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the program will reduce the spread of COVID-19, and stop hospitals from being overwhelmed by keeping patients at home who can recover there.

Mental Health Support

Illinoisans dealing with stress during the coronavirus pandemic have a new resource. The state’s Department of Human Services launched a free service - Call4Calm.

Individuals who need to speak with a mental health professional can text “TALK” to 552020. Residents can also text the number with keywords, such as “food,” “unemployment,” or “shelter," and they will receive information on how to access help and support.

All callers will remain anonymous.

Kia Coleman, assistant secretary for IDHS, said the need for mental health services has increased because of the pandemic.

“Lives have been upended, children are home from school, and adults are working remotely,” Coleman said. “Additionally, many adults are unable to work at all, and people are scared.”

Pritzker said it isn’t a crisis hotline, but a source for support.

“Feel all of it,” Pritzker said. “We are living in a deeply unprecedented moment, and holding the emotional ramifications of that inside, will only be hard on you.”

Coleman said some of Illinois' most vulnerable people are mental health patients, and around 3,000 residents have serious mental illness.

Additional resources for IDHS can be found here.

Olivia Mitchell is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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