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Rev. Jackson and supporters to fight impact new county budget is having on HIV/AIDS patients

Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Chicago Defender
by Demetrius Patterson

Deep cuts to 13 out of 26 Cook County health clinics and the layoff of about 250 health care managers will have adverse effects on AIDS patients such Dr. Rae Lewis-Thornton.
Lewis-Thornton stood along with 18 other activists, county workers and concerned citizens who believe the county's recently passed budget will cause additional problems for those who depend on clinics and John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital to help provide adequate health care.
The outraged Cook County residents joined Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. at the Rainbow/PUSH headquarters Monday to ask for a special summit to determine how to save more than 1,000 jobs. Many of the layoffs are in the county health care and the public defender's office.
"I am a woman who is living with AIDS who receives her health care primarily at the Core Center," Lewis-Thornton said. "The budget cuts within the Stroger system will deeply impact someone like me.
"The Core Center is the bulk of our care, but we rely on the Stroger system for our comprehensive care. So the tests that I need, the specialty clinics that I need to go to, they send me to Stroger. But they are getting ready to cut the budgets at Stroger."
Now, Lewis-Thornton said she won't be able to receive such services as a mammogram that was provided to her at Stroger Hospital.
"One of the huge impacts for people living with AIDS at the Core Center is that we're caught in Catch 22 with our medication," Lewis-Thornton continued. "And this is major for us."
She explained that many AIDS patients can't afford the cost of their medications through Medicaid Part D. They depend on the Core Center to provide their medications, which often is a medical cocktail to bolster their immune system.
With the budget cuts to the Core Center under the county, Lewis said she will go from paying nothing for her medicine to a co-pay of more than $2,200 starting in March.
"I am petrified at the idea that I am going to have to figure out a way each month to gather up two-thousand two-hundred sixty-one dollars and seventy-one cents each month, or die," Lewis-Thornton said.
Dr. Stephanie Brown, vice president for Cook County Physicians Association, said the new budget cuts will drop county dentists from 23 to three.
"That will leave us with one dentist and two assistants," Brown said as to what county residents can expect from the dental clinics. "We will also lose seven public healthcare educators within the dental system. We will lose community health clinics. We went from 13 down to three."
Brown said the only clinic that is left open for school-based treatments is in County Commissioner Tony Peraica's (R-16th) district.
"Next, we have to consider also that in the jail system we are losing our HIV specialists," Brown continued. "We've lost four physicians there, and we only have one infectious disease specialist there currently. We have to look at how this is going to affect us. When we lose these clinics, where are these patients going to go?"
Jackson said Rainbow/PUSH will file two civil rights lawsuits regarding the more than 30 positions that will be cut in the public defender's office and those in health care.
He said cutting public defenders will deny inmates' rights to a speedy trial with lack of representation, and that cutting county health care will deny many of the county's poor an avenue to get much needed treatment and medicine without putting more financial stress on them.

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