South, West Side health groups awarded millions to fix health inequities

The state has agreed to provide tens of millions of dollars to coalitions that are proposing to improve health care on the South and West sides.

A South Side group, a coalition of big and small hospitals and health clinics, will receive approximately $26 million from a state fund created this year. The final amount is subject to final negotiations, a spokesman for the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services said. That group includes so-called safety net community hospitals, such as St. Bernard Hospital and Roseland Hospital, in addition to University of Chicago, all of which will pool resources to develop new approaches to providing health services.

A West Side coalition, which includes Rush University Medical Center, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, The Loretto Hospital, Sinai Health System and Cook County Health, was awarded about $17.2 million, the second-largest sum for new Chicago health initiatives.

The two groups were among the largest recipients of $94 million overall in state funding announced this week. Additional grants may be awarded in the fall through a law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier this year that funds up to $150 million a year to improve health care in urban and rural communities.

“It’s tremendously exciting to see the magnitude of investment on the part of the state addressing these health disparities and inequities,” said Karen Teitelbaum, the chief executive of Sinai, which is involved in both the South and West side Chicago coalitions.

Karen Teitelbaum, president and CEO at Sinai Health System
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The coalitions aim to improve health care in underserved areas where money-losing hospitals have struggled to meet demand. Planning for the South Side group began after a failed merger of four money-losing hospitals — Advocate Trinity, Mercy, South Shore and St. Bernard — that serve a poor, heavily uninsured patient population. Advocate Trinity, South Shore and St. Bernard are all part of the South Side coalition.

“It’s really unprecedented in terms of the number of providers and the work collectively and collaboratively,” said Charles Holland, chief executive at St. Bernard. “We can have an impact on health outcomes on the South Side.”

Separately, a group led by University of Illinois at Chicago and the hospital’s doctors was awarded around $14 million to improve health care in two South Side community areas, Gage Park and West Elsdon.

Another group focused on the health of individuals returning to Chicago’s South and West sides after being released from the Cook County Jail or Illinois Department of Corrections was awarded approximately $6 million.

Loretto, which has been embroiled in multiple controversies this year, was also part of another Chicago coalition known as Collaborative Bridges that was awarded $2.9 million. That group, which also includes Community Counseling Centers of Chicago, is focused on behavioral health, such as psychiatric care, according to its application.

A North Side group led by NorthShore University Health System’s Swedish Hospital received an award of about $1.8 million.

Not all the money was allocated to Chicago. Another large grant of more than $22 million was awarded to an East St. Louis group.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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