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BLOOMINGTON — Health and human services providers in Central Illinois appreciated Gov. Bruce Rauner's focus on job creation in his State of the State speech Wednesday but hope to hear specifics on Medicaid and support of human services programs at his Feb. 14 budget address.

"The focus on job creation and working toward creating a healthy economic environment is good for Illinois now," said Chris Manson, vice president of government relations for OSF HealthCare.

"Anything that will improve the economic environment for the state of Illinois benefits everybody, including OSF," he said. Good jobs mean more people with health insurance, which means better access to health care, he said.

Mid Central Community Action, which has programs to help people out of poverty in McLean and Livingston counties, also appreciated the focus on jobs, said Matt Drat, director of resource development and community engagement.

But health care providers had been hopeful that Rauner would have made more than a passing reference to Medicaid.

"The state of Illinois is 50th of the 50 states on per-patient spending on Medicaid," Manson said. "OSF is committed to serving anyone who comes through our doors, but we would like to see the state address some of the disparities in Medicaid spending."

Meghan Woltman, vice president of government and community relations for Advocate Health Care, was pleased that the governor noted the opioid epidemic and work on a coordinated response.

Lisa Pieper, regional vice president of Children's Home + Aid, said, "After years of no state budget and crippling damage to the network of providers that serve Illinois' most vulnerable children and families, there was no mention of how the governor plans to rebuild this important part of the state's infrastructure."

"The governor said he would propose a balanced budget within one month," Pieper said. "We remain hopeful that the governor will propose adequate funding for improving human services across Illinois."

Pieper hopes the Child Care Assistance Program, which makes child care affordable for low-income working parents, will not be cut.

"Taking into consideration it is an election year, we were not surprised with the overall positive messaging in the State of the State address," said YWCA McLean County CEO D. Dontae Latson. "We are hesitant to put full confidence in the speech until we see action out of the governor's office."

YWCA is owed $137,000 by the state but that's better than the half-million dollars owed when there was no state budget, said Liz German, vice president of operations. While that shows the value of a state budget, German recalled that the state budget stalemate that ended in 2017 forced the YWCA to eliminate 75 positions.

Gail Kear and Rickielee Benecke, of LIFE Center for Independent Living, hope the upcoming proposed budget will "recognize the importance of community-based human service providers."

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech


Health Editor

Health Editor for The Pantagraph.

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