SPRINGFIELD – Dental hygiene is directly linked to a person’s overall health, but many Illinoisans aren’t receiving the proper care they need due to the high cost of treatment or because of the lack of coverage for anesthesia. State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) hopes to curb the price of dental care by expanding Medicaid coverage for people with autism and developmental disabilities.

Senate Bill 346 addresses dental care services that are either not covered or under-reimbursed by Medicaid. The measure, which is similar to two bills Morrison filed last year before the pandemic, expands coverage of dental care and anesthesia for people with autism or a developmental disability, making those individuals more comfortable when visiting the dentist.

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“Going to the dentist can be uncomfortable for anyone, but the stress is amplified for children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities,” Morrison said. “Some patients with developmental disabilities are unable to endure regular dental exams or cleanings without general anesthesia. This measure will help more people be able to afford the treatment they need.”

According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, because it is difficult for them to get treatment, people with developmental disorders suffer “a high burden of dental disease.” More than 30% of the patients studied suffered from untreated cavities and 80% from serious gum infections.

Additionally, the measure requires Medicaid to cover dental care, including anesthesia, that is provided in a hospital or surgical treatment center for any individual with a medical condition that requires hospitalization or general anesthesia.

“Keeping a healthy set of teeth is more important than people think,” Morrison said. “Many diseases and conditions have a direct correlation to dental health. Making sure teeth get the attention they need is an important part of an individual’s overall well-being.”

The measure awaits a committee assignment.

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SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) released the following statement after the governor’s Wednesday State of the State and Budget Address:

“The governor’s proposed budget underscores the need to bring resources to Illinoisans who have found themselves in unfathomable situations triggered by the pandemic – and I share those concerns. Now, the General Assembly will review this proposal and pass a budget reflecting our limitations and our state’s effort to recover from the pandemic.

“I am hopeful this can lead us toward a safer and more inclusive Illinois.”

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HIGHWOOD – Stories of clinics not receiving their promised number of COVID-19 vaccines, appointment websites crashing, and people spending the night in their cars hoping to be first in line to get their dose aren’t unheard of. The frequency of these stories – and others – led State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) to schedule a Senate hearing on the statewide vaccine distribution plan.

“As the demand for the vaccine has grown, so has anticipation for each of us waiting for the vaccine,” Morrison said. “We’ve been fielding calls from frustrated and frightened constituents who are eligible but can’t find their place in line or get the vaccine.”

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At Thursday’s Senate Health Committee – chaired by Morrison – senators brought forth concerns from people who live in districts they represent about issues ranging from how people who are homebound can receive the vaccine to how local communities can plan clinics without more precise numbers on how many doses they will receive.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike helped answer those questions, and said to date, the state has administered more than 1.5 million vaccines – 1.2 million of which were initial doses and more than 300,000 were second doses. She acknowledged there have been challenges, and IDPH will provide more than $25 million in grants to local health departments throughout the state to assist with challenges administering the vaccination.

While Morrison is pleased more people will be able to receive their dose under Phase 1b, she raised concerns about the amount of available vaccine, asking how to make sure people 65 and older won’t be lost in the competitive crowd. Ezike said 25% of that population has been vaccinated and IDPH continues to reach out to ensure no one is left behind.

“I know patience has run thin as people are worried about their safety and the safety of their loved ones, so obviously the limitation of this vaccine is causing some anxiety,” Ezike said. “We will be giving out the vaccine as quickly as we can get it.”

Morrison will continue to work with IDPH, local health departments and other stakeholders to ensure every person eligible for the vaccine can get it in an efficient way. She plans to call another meeting in weeks to come to see if progress has been made.

“It is my wish we can bring light and clarity to the process,” Morrison said. “I hope we can continue to work collaboratively to create a more coordinated and efficient distribution plan.”

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HIGHWOOD – State Senator Julie Morrison (D- Lake Forest) is urging current and former youth under the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to apply for the 2021 DCFS Scholarship Program.

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“Furthering education can open so many doors for children, especially our most vulnerable youth,” said Morrison, who has been a steadfast advocate for funding and resources for DCFS. “This scholarship opportunity can give students the tools they need to succeed in higher education, so I urge anyone who can to apply.”

The DCFS Scholarship Program is open to youth who have an open DCFS case, whose cases were closed through adoption or guardianship, or who aged out of care at 18 or older. Youth who are at least 16 years old and not yet 21 on March 31 may apply. The program will award 53 academic scholarships in total.

Scholarship recipients are selected based on their scholastic record, community and extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation and a written personal statement. Recipients will receive up to five consecutive years of tuition and academic fee waivers to be used at participating Illinois state community colleges and universities, a monthly grant of $1,235 to offset other expenses and a medical card.

“This scholarship can alleviate the stress many students feel when transitioning into college, and allow students to focus on their education instead of worrying about how they will be able to pay for school,” Morrison said.

Applications are due by March 31. More information and the application are available at any DCFS regional office and on the DCFS website under DCFS Features on the homepage.

Students or caregivers may also call the DCFS Office of Education and Transition Services at 217-557-2689 with questions about the application process or for more information.

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