Senator Syverson’s Week in Review: February 4 – 8

Lawmakers returning to Springfield for the second week of the Legislative Session heard testimony in the Veterans Affairs Committee about the previous Legionella outbreaks at the Quincy Veterans’ Home and began advancing legislation through Senate Committees.

Combatting Legionella at Veterans’ Home

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee continued its efforts to learn more about the Legionella outbreak at the Quincy Veterans’ Home. Lawmakers discussed the state’s response to the outbreak in a joint Senate/House of Representatives hearing on Feb. 7.

The Committee continued deliberating solutions and exploring alternatives in response to the Legionella issue. Proposals have ranged from building a new structure on the Veterans’ Home campus to making extensive water treatment improvements or completely replacing the facility’s plumbing.

The Committee heard testimony from Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah; Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Jeffries; Capital Development Board Acting Executive Director Amy Romano; Tom Buchheit, Managing Principal of BRiC Partnership, LLC Consulting Engineers; and Adams County Public Health Administrator Jerrod Welch.

Committee members continued to emphasize the safety and security of the veterans in the Quincy Veterans’ Home as their number one concern and repeated their desire to work with the Department of Public Health and the CDC on remediation efforts at the Home.

Water Management Task Force to meet

A new Quincy Veterans’ Home Water Management Task Force will meet next week to review a plumbing assessment report  released Feb. 6, Gov. Bruce Rauner said.

The Governor created the Task Force after living at the Veterans’ Home for a week in January.

Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Director Erica Jeffries will lead the Task Force comprised of federal, state and local officials, including State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy), State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Daniel Swanson (R-Alpha).

The plumbing assessment covers the main water loop at the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Quincy and explores next steps ranging from replacement and shadow systems to completely new water sources and use of alternate chemical disinfectants. BRiC Partnership LLC, an Illinois-based engineering firm experienced in health facility plumbing systems, conducted the assessment, which was finalized Feb. 5.  

Rauner has asked the Task Force to review feasibility options for new construction and for building on remediation efforts already under way.

EpiPen bill protects medical professionals

Legislation approved this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee would protect law enforcement officers and medical professionals from liability when they use EpiPens in emergencies.

To encourage the participation of medical professionals in the life-saving Annie LeGere Law and place epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens) in the hands of law enforcement, Senate Bill 2226 increases liability protection for participating health providers. The bill received unanimous support from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 6.

The bill stipulates that when a law enforcement officer administers an EpiPen, a physicians or physician’s assistant who provides a standing order for prescribing the EpiPen, will incur no civil or professional liability. The bill is followup legislation to the Annie LeGere Law and provides that a physician licensed under the act may not be subject to discipline for providing a standing order or prescription for an EpiPen to law enforcement.

The Annie LeGere Law, effective as of January 2017, allows for Illinois police officers to carry and administer EpiPens on duty as an emergency measure to reverse life-threatening allergic reactions following proper training and procedural requirements. The legislation was inspired by Elmhurst’s own Annie LeGere, a 13-year-old who passed away from a fatal allergic reaction that could have been prevented by epinephrine. 

Bills to raise smoking age to 21, provide opioid alternatives

A bill voted out of the Senate Public Health Committee would raise the legal smoking age to 21.  Senate Bill 2332 would set the legal age to buy or use tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, and alternative nicotine products at 21 years of age. Senate Bill 2332 would also require retailers to verify the age of tobacco customers by government photo IDs or – for an online or other type of remote purchase – through a third-party age verification service; and restricts free samples of electronic cigarettes and alternative nicotine products.

Another measure, Senate Bill 336, was advanced by the Senate Executive Committee, and would expand the number of people eligible to use medical marijuana by extending the definition of “debilitating medical condition” to include any medical condition that could justify the prescription for an opioid.

Senate Bill 336 was introduced in response to the ongoing “opioid epidemic,” as the numbers of opioid addicts, opioid overdoses and opioid overdose deaths continue to rise. Proponents argue that expanding access to medical cannabis reduces the need for prescription pain killers and will reduce opioid addiction.   However, concerns were raised about the expansion of the state’s medical cannabis program, as well as the costs the Department of Public Health said would be associated with a program expansion.

Dave Syverson

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