pexels brett sayles 4818718CHICAGO – As the global pandemic continues to reveal racial disparities in the health care system, State Senators Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) called for massive reforms as part of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC)’s fourth pillar agenda.

“In order to truly fix the issues of health disparities amongst African Americans, it is important that we examine the root causes,” Hunter said. “For centuries, Black people have been disrespected, abused and misused in the name of health care. Though we cannot solve these issues overnight, we can start by addressing our afflictions piece by piece.”

“Black people have always been at the bottom of the totem pole in this country,” Van Pelt said. “Due to grave injustices regarding access to quality and affordable care, we are more susceptible to various illnesses, including COVID-19. We need a strategic plan that implements real and lasting change in order to reach true equity in our health care systems.”
Health care and human services is the last of four pillars guiding the ILBC’s efforts to rid the state’s institutions of systemic racism. The first three pillars are:

I. Criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability
II. Education and workforce development
III. Economic access, equity and opportunity

Friday’s hearing focused on social determinants of and influences on health and health disparities. Legislators heard testimony from the following witnesses:

  • Dr. Ruby Mendenhall, Associate Professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Assistant Dean at Carle College of Medicine
  • Jordan Powell, CEO of Illinois Primary Health Care Association
  • Donna Thompson, CEO of Access Community Health Network
  • Barrett Hatches, CEO of Chicago Family Health Center
  • Lauren Wright, Executive Director at Illinois Partners for Human Services

As the ILBC looks into legislative solutions, Dr. Mendenhall recommended investing in community health, advocating for affordable housing and monitoring evictions, and leading with innovative, radical ideas. Wright noted that funding for behavioral health issues was also identified as a top priority in a survey done by over 170 human service organizations.

Future hearings will further examine social determinants of health and dive deeper into proposed solutions. The next scheduled hearing is Monday, Oct. 19.