New concussion guidelines; Medicaid revamp

New concussion guidelines are in effect for contact sports
As awareness of the dangers of concussions in youth sports have grown, so too has the need to take action to better protect student-athletes from these injuries. New guidelines, adopted this season by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), are intended to reduce the number of concussions in contact sports. Student-athletes will be required to be tested and monitored during contact-sports activities.  The goal is to diagnose concussions as quickly as possible.

Under the new guidelines, if an athlete is found to have a concussion, he or she will undergo further monitoring and testing before being able to return to the playing field. Once a concussion is diagnosed, the athlete will not be able to take the field again until a doctor has cleared them to do so. Every Illinois school that plays sports is required by the new rules to have a concussion oversight team to enforce these requirements.

This action follows passage of the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, which asked the IHSA, athletic trainers, and others to work together to put in place new methods of reducing sports concussions starting with this school year.

State agencies discussing Medicaid revamp
One of the many causes of Illinois’ budget crisis is the expanding cost of the state’s Medicaid program. Medicaid, which is a family of programs providing reimbursements for medical care provided to eligible persons, spends billions each year. Because it is an entitlement program the General Assembly cannot easily enact changes to cut its cost. Federal law grants most Medicaid beneficiaries a right to many of the services that the program provides to them.

Some, but not all, of Illinois’ Medicaid costs are covered by the federal government. One problem a group of state agencies is focusing on is the growing gap between what Illinois could apply for in Medicaid aid and the reimbursements that the state actually receives. That is the subject of an interdepartmental proposal to close some of the gaps. Some proponents claim that this proposal could make it easier for Illinois to apply for an additional $2.7 billion in federal Medicaid funds over the next five years. The proposal also includes improvements to housing services for persons whose health concerns could put them at risk for becoming homeless and pre-release services for state prison inmates.

The involved agencies will have to work together on an ongoing basis to implement the proposal. They will need to adopt standardized software in order to share client data across the different agencies. An existing effort to update Illinois’ data management capabilities is part of this proposal. Some portions of the effort will require action by the General Assembly as well. Stay tuned as we work to improve this important program and bring in more federal funds for it.

Remember to drive safely around school buses
As we all know, school buses are back out on the roads every weekday morning and afternoon. Drivers are reminded that significant penalties exist for those who pass a stopped school bus when it has its lights flashing and stop-sign arm extended. Illinois law states that traffic must remain stopped as long as the lights are flashing and until the stop-sign arm is withdrawn. Fines can be imposed on violators by a court, but the Secretary of State is also required by law to issue a three month suspension of the driving privileges of a person who violates the law.

All spring session bills have now been acted upon
Throughout the summer, I have been telling you about some of the bills that have been signed into law by the Governor. In total, the House and Senate sent 443 bills to Governor Rauner for his consideration this year.

Of that total, 403 were signed into law, including four bills which I sponsored. The other forty were vetoed, 30 of them in total, and ten by amendatory veto, meaning the Governor sent them back to the General Assembly with specific recommendations for changes. The General Assembly now has the option of overriding those total vetoes, or accepting or rejecting the Governor’s proposed changes. It takes a three-fifths vote to override a veto and a simple majority to accept the amendatory veto changes.

The House is scheduled to be back in session starting on November 15 to review the vetoed legislation.

Reminder: ISBE listening tour in Bloomington on September 13
The Illinois State Board of Education’s statewide Every Student Succeeds Act listening tour is coming to Bloomington on Tuesday, September 13. The event will be at Bloomington Junior High School, 901 N. Colton Avenue, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. More information about ESSA is available at http://isbe.net/essa/. Another session is scheduled for the Woodruff Career and Technical Academy at 1800 NE Perry in Peoria from 4:30 to 6:30 on September 22.

September is National Preparedness Month
Earlier this year, a tornado struck Pontiac. Late last year, it was flooding in Iroquois County and elsewhere. Winter storms are just around the corner. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is encouraging Illinois residents to learn how to prepare for disaster during National Preparedness Month. This year’s theme is “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.”

Take a few moments to sit down and make a household emergency plan, and then make sure everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency; whether it is a kitchen fire, a medical emergency or a tornado. Having a plan and knowing what to do could save your life or the life of a loved one. Visit ready.illinois.gov for more information on household emergency planning and preparedness.

Did You Know?
Illinois’ first Governor was Shadrach Bond. Governor Bond had previously represented Illinois as a territorial delegate to Congress when the Illinois Territory was first established. Born in Maryland, Governor Bond moved at the age of 21 to Kaskaskia, Illinois, which became the first state capital upon statehood in 1818. He served a single term as Governor and lived the rest of his life in Kaskaskia, even though the capital had departed for Vandalia. Governor Bond died in 1832 and is buried in Chester.