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Revitalizing the health system

Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Chicago Journal

One View
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin is a reformer. A reformer is a politician who has the guts to do what no one else wants to do.

Forging a compromise with County Board Todd Stroger to reform the County's failing health care system will save taxpayers big money in the future. By investing in an independent board to oversee the Bureau of Health Services, federal and state legislators are more likely to release additional health care dollars to the Cook County Health Care system.

For years, I have witnessed the persistent efforts of our 13th District Cook County Commissioner to improve access to health care for his uninsured and underinsured constituents. In the past, Commissioner Suffredin has encouraged health care activists and community residents to testify at the Cook County budget hearings, to the lack of access to health care in the Northeast region of Cook County. To date, the 13th Cook County District has never received any health care services from the county, and remains the only Cook County District to never have a Cook County Clinic within its borders.

Four years ago, after realizing the shambles the Cook County Health System was in, Commissioner Suffredin encouraged constituents in his district to continue to work toward county health care reform while also advising us to pursuit other sources of government funding for our community's health care needs. The Rogers Park community, which lies along the southern border of the 13th District has been designated a Medically Underserved Community and a physician shortage area by the federal government since 2001. It is estimated that over one third of our community's residents are uninsured or underinsured.

Because Commissioner Suffredin's vision and concern for the immediate needs of his district, he helped community partners in Rogers Park apply for federal funding for a federally qualified health center (FQHC). On February 4, the new Heartland Health Rogers Park Health Center opened its doors to serve the uninsured and the insured. The commissioner facilitated a couple years of monthly planning meetings, assisted with completing a lengthy community health assessment and supported community partners every step of the way.

More recently, the commissioner worked to help develop the "Emergency Network to Save Cook County Services." The Emergency Network is a coalition comprised of over 50 community groups and organizations from around the county dedicated to restoring quality health care services to the residents of Cook County. The Emergency Network fully supported Commissioner Suffredin's Emergency Trustee proposal to recruit and appoint an independent board of qualified health care administrators to oversee operations throughout the Cook County Health System in an effort gain public trust, oversee health care system reform and ensure sound fiscal management.

Commissioner Suffredin is a reformer who knows how to mobilize his own district to get the health care dollars we need to take care of our community. By negotiating the appointment of an independent board of professionals to responsibly oversee the management of one of the largest public health care system in the nation, Commissioner Suffering has paved the way for additional state and federal funding of the Cook County health care system.

Monica Dillon is a public health nurse and one of the founders of Neighbors for a Healthy Rogers Park, a grass roots organization dedicated to building a healthy and sustainable community.

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