Illinois bills allow redistribution of prescription drugs, require menstrual products at homeless shelters

SPRINGFIELD — The Senate Health Committee voted Tuesday to advance two bills that would create a prescription drug repository program and require that feminine hygiene products be provided free of charge at homeless shelters.

Both bills have already passed the House and will now be considered before the full Senate.

House Bill 119 would establish a prescription drug repository program, allowing certain unused prescription drugs to be returned to pharmacies and reused for eligible populations. The bill would allow individuals to return unexpired prescription and over-the-counter medication that remains in unopened, tamper-evident packaging.

Unused medications could be returned by individuals at participating pharmacies, and prescription donors would be required to provide information regarding the strength and quantity of each donation.

“Instead of medication ending up in landfills, this would create an opportunity for there to be relief for Illinoisans who are struggling to afford their medication,” chief Senate sponsor Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, said during a Tuesday committee hearing.

Villa said the program allows for collection of “safe, unused, unexpired” medications which can then be made available “at a minimal cost to patients.”

George Wang, co-founder of the nonprofit organization SIRUM, or Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine, told the committee that through this program, unused prescriptions could be sent to other charities or community health organizations to assist vulnerable low-income patients and those in need of low-cost prescriptions.

“Typically, what happens in these programs is that the medicine would be donated to a charitable pharmacy and perhaps a free clinic, and then that entity would dispense the medicine,” Wang said.

Villa said the bill would make Illinois one of more than 20 states to provide a prescription drug repository program.

“This piece of legislation is such a critical opportunity in the state of Illinois where we can take medication that is unused, instead of going to the landfills, and putting it in the hands of those who need it the most,” Villa said. “We have many folks who could really use this opportunity, so I really want to thank all of those folks who have been working so hard.”

The bill passed by a unanimous 13-0 vote and will be sent to the Senate floor.

Menstrual products at homeless shelters

The Senate Health Committee on Tuesday also passed House Bill 310, which would require homeless shelters to provide feminine hygiene products.

The bill would require that products such as sanitary napkins, tampons and pantyliners be made available for free at all shelters that provide temporary housing assistance to women and youth.

It applies to public and private shelters, but the shelter’s obligation to provide the products is “subject to the availability of funds in the homeless shelter’s general budget.”

“There is no excuse for depriving any individual the right to basic hygiene,” chief Senate sponsor Christopher Belt, D-Centreville, said Tuesday. “Not providing for such an essential need to some of our most vulnerable citizens is shameful and should no longer happen in Illinois.”

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Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview, said the bill would also encourage individuals to donate feminine hygiene products, which are often in short supply at homeless and temporary support shelters.

“This puts something very important on people’s radar screens, because we think of donating food or clothing, but this is also going to open people’s minds to donating these feminine products,” Fine said.

“All of us as women have been in a position where we’ve been begging, our friends and neighbors to look in their purses to see if they have anything available to us because it could be a very embarrassing uncomfortable situation, and just another challenge that if you are homeless, you don’t need another challenge in your life,” Fine added.

The bill passed by an 11-2 vote and will be sent to the full Senate for consideration.

7 things to know as Illinois prepares to enter the bridge phase

‘Light is getting brighter’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that thanks to stabilizations and reductions in key COVID-19-related metrics such as hospitalizations, cases and deaths, the state will move into the intermediate reopening phase between Phases 4 and 5 on May 14.

If all goes well, the state could move into Phase 5, a reopening of the state with no restrictions, as early as June 11.

"The light that we can see at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter," Pritzker said. "For restaurants and bars and retail and weddings and public gatherings, this means higher capacity limits and a very hopeful move toward full reopening."


Business restrictions

The bridge phase will expand capacity limits in places such as retail stores, offices, theaters, ticketed spectator events, amusement parks and zoos up to 60%.

Restaurants and bars could expand capacity in standing areas to 30% indoors and 50% outdoors.

Outdoor farmers markets and other outdoor spectator events would be allowed to welcome 30 people per 1,000 square feet, up from 15, with indoor markets being unchanged.


Social event limits

Limits will also be expanded for social events, with outdoor events having a limit of 500 people and indoor events being able to invite up to 250 people, up from the previous limits of 100 and 50 people respectively.


Masks still required

Even with the loosening of restrictions, the state will continue to follow CDC guidelines on masks and will continue to monitor caseloads in order to prevent another surge of the virus. Pritzker also urged caution, noting that there had been too many times where the state had been lulled into a false sense of security over the past year.

"This virus and its variants have been unpredictable," Pritzker said. "Metrics that look strong today are far from a guarantee of how things will look a week, two weeks (or) a month from now. We saw that last August and again last March.

"But what we do know is that we have tools in our arsenal, like vaccinations and wearing masks, that, if we all use them, have proven extremely effective."


Vaccine progress

The state’s vaccination efforts have helped stabilize and reduce cases following the surge in March, even though current daily vaccinations are lagging behind those of a month ago. IDPH reported 99,599 new vaccinations Thursday, bringing the seven-day average to 70,063 per day, the lowest since February 26.

Statewide, 85% of people 65 and older have had their first shot of a vaccine and 4,282,681 people statewide have been fully vaccinated, representing 33.61% of the adult population.


Expanding vaccine access

With demand beginning to wane, Pritzker also announced Thursday that the state would begin to allow doctor’s offices to provide COVID-19 vaccines to patients. Over 1,000 offices have already signed up with IDPH to provide the vaccines, with more likely to join in the days and weeks to come.

"We have the vaccine, all we need are the doctors," Pritzker said. "This is about making it as easy as possible for those who have not yet gotten vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19. For some, that’s a matter of comfort. They’d rather get a vaccine from a doctor that they know and trust."

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of IDPH, said that the department is now focusing on how to get shots into the arms of those who haven’t yet received their first dose, as daily vaccination numbers start to wane.

"We know that when it comes to our health, the person that we tend to trust most is our own personal physician," Ezike said.

Ezike noted that logistical challenges may impact how many offices provide the vaccine early on. For instance, the process for signing up through Illinois’ I-CARE (Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange) system takes a week or two before the first shots can be given. In addition, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require cold storage that may not be readily available in many doctor’s offices.

"We’re working with that," Ezike said. "We’re going to work with hospitals and health care organizations to identify ways in which smaller doctor’s offices can work with one another and share the doses so that even a provider that only administers a dozen or two-dozen doses a week can still have access to this valuable resource."


Region: Northern,Region: Kankakee,News

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May 12, 2021 at 02:17PM

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