Durbin Meets With Illinois Public Health & Medicaid Officials

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Sameer Vohra and Medicaid Administrator at Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Kelly Cunningham to discuss workforce shortages in the health care sector, and public heath funding to ensure Illinoisans can continue to get the high quality, affordable care they need.  

“Our health care professionals put their all into caring for their patients, but the demands of the pandemic have exacerbated workforce shortages, especially in our underserved rural and urban communities” said Durbin. “During today’s meeting, I reiterated my support to strengthen our health care workforce, and my commitment to ensure Congress continues to provide IDPH the funds they need to ensure Illinois is prepared for the next public health threats.”

In February, Durbin delivered remarks at the National Rural Health Association’s (NRHA) 34th Rural Health Policy Institute conference.  Durbin spoke about his Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Reauthorization Act with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), bipartisan legislation that would extend funding to hire staff and purchase equipment for rural fire and EMS agencies nationwide.  Durbin’s bipartisan Rural America Health Corps Act would address critical rural health workforce shortages by creating a new program that improves the existing National Health Service Corps (NHSC) program by providing new dedicated student loan forgiveness funding for health care providers that serve in rural communities.  In President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, Durbin secured $1 billion in scholarships and student loan repayment for clinicians and nurses.

In Illinois, 94 percent of our rural communities don’t have enough mental health care providers.  Additionally, more than half of the nearly 195,000 registered nurses in Illinois are over the age of 55, and one-in-four say they plan to retire in the next five years.  Yet despite this looming shortage, fewer than 8,000 nurses graduate from Illinois nursing schools each year.