CHICAGO – Joined by Cubs legend and diabetic Ron Santo and a longtime Cubs fan on a crusade to raise money for diabetes research, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that will clear the way for even more money to be raised for Diabetes research. House Bill 1581 creates the Diabetes Research Checkoff Fund. Money collected in this fund will be given to the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide grants for Diabetes research. About 620,000 Illinoisans have Diabetes – including Santo who had a 14-year career with the Cubs on the field and is now the radio voice of the Cubs.
“Diabetes is a disease that can affect anyone, young and old, men and women,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “By creating the Diabetes Research Checkoff Fund, we’re giving Illinoisans an opportunity to join the fight against this disease and provide hope for the more than 600,000 persons who have Diabetes.”
HB 1581, sponsored by Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago) and Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego), changes the Illinois Income Tax Act to create the tax checkoff for the fund. Taxpayers may contribute to the fund by indicating on their income tax return form the amount they wish to donate. The donation either increases the amount the taxpayer owes or reduces the refund.
“Diabetes is a serious disease resulting in numerous health problems for those who have it,” said Sen. DeLeo. “Research is an important first step toward helping people with Diabetes live long, healthy and active lives.”
Chief sponsor Rep. Tom Cross, whose daughter was diagnosed with juvenile Diabetes soon after she finished kindergarten, has been a leader in the fight for more research funds.
“We have made much progress in controlling Diabetes and with more research, we can continue to continue our efforts to find a cure for this disease,” said Rep. Cross. “The Diabetes Research Checkoff Fund is an excellent way to raise much-needed resources to fight one of our most common and costly diseases.”
"The American Diabetes Association funds peer-reviewed projects aimed at preventing, treating, and curing all types of diabetes," said Nancy Harris, Executive Director of the American Diabetes Association of Northern Illinois. "We are confident that the funds generated by the tax check off will truly benefit the diabetes community, and hope that the generous people of Illinois will share our mission and help our work to prevent or delay the devastating complications associated with this disease while improving the lives of those living with diabetes through research, advocacy and information."
"On behalf of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Illinois, our army of volunteers and everyone who suffers from type-1diabetes throughout the state, we would like to extend our most sincere thanks to Governor Blagojevich for creating the Diabetes Research Checkoff Fund," said Amy Franze, executive director of JDRF Illinois. "This type of creative and forward-thinking initiative means so much in our efforts to fund critical diabetes research and will ultimately help us achieve our collective goal, which is finding a cure."
Santo, now the announcer for the Cubs, played third base for the organization for 14 years, earning five Gold Gloves and named an All Star nine times. Diagnosed when he was 18, Santo was and is the only major league position player to play professional baseball with Type One Juvenile Diabetes. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes has raised over $50 million since the first one in 1974.
Following in Santo’s fundraising footsteps is Bill Holden, a die-hard Cubs fan originally from Elgin, Illinois, and now residing in Arizona. After watching This Old Cub, a moving documentary that follows Santo’s life as a Cubs great and his battle with Diabetes that claimed both of his legs, Holden wanted to help find a cure for the disease that Santo and so many others battle. In January, he began his 2,100-mile walk across the country, from Arizona to Wrigley Field. Over the course of the trip, he has raised awareness of juvenile Diabetes while raising money towards his goal of $250,000 for research.
“Ron Santo, Wild Bill Holden and everyone at This Old Cub are proud to see that the Governor and the State of Illinois are dedicated to finding a cure for Diabetes,” said Tim Comstock, producer of This Old Cub.
The Governor also declared today “Wild Bill Holden Day” in honor of his trek across the country to raise funds and awareness.
“I’m just happy to be back in the greatest city in the world – it’s a beautiful day. I hope that this walk will raise awareness for the problem that we have with juvenile Diabetes in this country,” said Bill Holden. “I want to thank all the people who have supported me and contributed to the cause over the last six months. I love you all, and Go Cubs!”
It’s estimated that more than 18 million people in the U.S. have Diabetes and more than a million people are newly diagnosed each year. Factors that contribute to adults developing Diabetes include obesity, sedentary lifestyle and age. Diabetes is the fifth-deadliest disease in the nation. It’s estimated that three million people in Illinois are at risk for developing Diabetes, but research has shown that a proper diet and exercise are effective in preventing and controlling the disease.
The Department of Human Services will distribute donations to fund approved research projects. Half of the funds awarded will be made to entities that conduct research for Juvenile diabetes.
The new law is effective immediately and the Diabetes Research Checkoff Fund will be on the 2005 Illinois Income Tax Return.
Today’s announcement is part of Governor Blagojevich’s long standing effort to make sure that more people get more health care and better benefits, protect coverage for those who have health care, and help hospitals, doctors and nurses provide better health care. Specifically:
· Best in the nation for providing health care to the working poor: Since Governor Blagojevich took office, 313,000 more men, women and children have received health care through the KidCare and FamilyCare programs – at a time when most states are not only not providing more coverage for the working poor, but also kicking people off of Medicaid or significantly reducing their benefits. This year’s budget included funding to add another 56,000 men, women and children. The Kaiser Foundation has ranked Illinois the best state in the nation for providing health care to people who need it.
· One of only a handful of states to protect Medicaid recipients: The budget signed by Governor Blagojevich a few weeks ago ensures – for the third consecutive year, despite facing budget deficits – that Medicaid recipients maintain their health care, unlike states ranging from Missouri to Tennessee to Texas to Washington who are either kicking people off of Medicaid or significantly reducing benefits.
· First state to develop a statewide small business health insurance pool and program: Governor Blagojevich and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce are developing a small business health insurance program that will help small businesses reduce their costs by 10-15% and provide more health care for their employees. Illinois will be the first state to create a pool where businesses of 50 employees or less can join, saving money on the negotiated rate, administrative costs and broker fees.
· First state to make rx drugs from Europe and Canada available: Under Governor Blagojevich, Illinois became the first state to allow its citizens to purchase prescription drugs from Europe and Canada. More than 10,000 people have enrolled in the last few months alone to take advantage of lower prices (25-50% less) for over 120 name brand prescription drugs.
· Most comprehensive state response to fill in gaps in the federal rx drug benefit: This spring, the General Assembly passed the Governor’s Leave No Senior Behind legislation, which is Illinois’ response to the federal Medicare rx drug benefit. Because of the major holes in the federal program, the Governor’s plan fills in the gaps, so Illinois seniors will not suffer the same fate that face seniors in other states.
· First state to require pharmacists to dispense female contraceptives: In April, Governor Blagojevich issued an emergency rule requiring pharmacists whose pharmacies sell contraception to dispense birth control to women with valid prescriptions. The Governor’s emergency rule will become permanent this summer. In addition, the state will soon launch a new website to help women know which insurers now cover contraceptives, helping hundreds of thousands of women save an average of $400/ year on the cost of their contraceptives.
· Improving women’s health programs: Governor Blagojevich created the Illinois Healthy Women program to provide health care to women who otherwise would go without. To date, the program has served more than 90,000 women. In addition, Illinois has dramatically increased the number of mammograms and cervical cancer screenings since Governor Blagojevich took office.
· Accessing nearly $2 billion in new federal health care money: This summer, Governor Blagojevich will sign the hospital assessment legislation, which means nearly $2 billion in new federal funding for Illinois hospitals. Last year, the Governor persuaded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to approve a plan that meant nearly $500 million in new federal funds for Illinois hospitals. This plan, which requires federal approval but was constructed with their guidelines in mind, means more than three times that amount.
· Medical Malpractice Reform: This summer, Governor Blagojevich will sign major medical malpractice reform legislation, which will reduce the cost of insurance premiums for doctors and stop doctors from leaving the state. Governor Blagojevich helped pass the legislation despite his personal opposition to caps, because making sure that people have access to health care is probably the most important function government performs.
Reducing the nursing shortage: This summer, Governor Blagojevich will sign a package of bills aimed at reducing the nursing shortage in Illinois, including making it easier for foreign nurses to practice in Illinois. The state also eliminated the nurses’ registration backlog this April and increased the amount available in grants for nurses’ training. This fulfills the initiative launched by the Governor in his State of the State address to reduce the nursing shortage.