CHAMPAIGN – First Lady Patricia Blagojevich today announced the success of a new rule introduced by her husband, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, requiring Illinois pharmacies to post signs outlining consumers’ right to obtain contraceptives, and providing information on where to file a complaint with the state if a pharmacy violates that right. The rule, adopted in August, was introduced by the Governor to prevent pharmacies from trying to get around an emergency rule he filed in April 2005 that requires them to fill all FDA-approved birth control prescriptions in a timely manner if the drugs are in stock and a legal prescription has been presented. Today, the Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception announced that 100 percent of Champaign pharmacies surveyed had posted the signs in clear view of customers.
“I both firmly believe that women’s health should be a priority in Illinois. So when renegade pharmacists stood in the way of women’s health last year, my husband took action to stop them and to ensure women knew their rights. Today I am happy to report that just two months after the contraceptive sign rule was enacted, Champaign pharmacists pledged to post the sign and make women aware of their rights,” the First Lady said.
The Champaign-based group, Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception, identified 24 pharmacies in the Champaign-Urbana area that have complied with the Governor’s rule. The signs remind customers what their rights are if the drugs requested are not in stock and provide them a web-site, www.contraceptives.illinois.gov
, and toll-free number, 800-280-4149, where they can file a complaint with the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), which regulates pharmacies.
In the spring of 2005, after hearing complaints that women with valid prescriptions were being turned away by pharmacists with moral objections to contraceptives, the Governor issued an emergency rule that requires all pharmacies that carry contraceptives to fill all valid prescriptions for FDA-approved contraceptives without delay. He proposed the subsequent consumer rights sign requirement earlier this year in response to attempts by some pharmacists to get around the emergency rule. In a complaint filed with IDFPR, a health care provider in the West Peoria area reported being told by a local pharmacist when he called in a prescription for emergency contraception that the medication was not in stock. The next day, the provider called back and spoke to the pharmacy manager who affirmed that they carried the drug, and it had been in stock the day of the original call.
“Family planning options are a woman’s personal choice, and yet today there are too many outsiders trying to make decisions for her. I am proud to stand with the First Lady as we witness the success of the Governor’s work to ensure women’s rights are respected,” said Dean Martinez, Secretary, IDFPR.
“Timely access to emergency contraception is essential for all women. It is important that women know their rights when at the pharmacy and be treated with dignity and respect. Having a sign posted at the pharmacy helps women make informed choices about their health care and speak out if their rights are violated,” said Allison Jones, lead organizer for the Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception.
Eliminating health disparities and improving access to health care have been two of the Governor’s priorities. Beginning in September 2006, Gov. Blagojevich expanded the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) to allow 3,000 additional uninsured, low income women to be screened and more than 400 additional women to be treated this year through the Healthcare Benefits for Persons with Breast or Cervical Cancer Act.
Since Gov. Blagojevich took office in 2003, more than 126,000 breast and cervical cancer screenings have been performed through programs in the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).
Gov. Blagojevich has made other significant contributions to promote and improve women’s health including:
· Increased funding for women’s health: Governor Blagojevich has consistently made women’s health a priority, allocating $24.1 million in state funding for women’s breast and cervical health programs over the last four years. This year, Governor Blagojevich allocated $2.1 million in new funding to increase eligibility for life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings to women with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
· Illinois Healthy Women program: The Healthy Women program, administered by Healthcare and Family Services, has helped women across the state who are losing their Medicaid eligibility stay healthy and promoted healthy births by providing comprehensive coverage for reproductive health care, including annual physicals, Pap smears, mammograms, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives. More than 214,000 women have been offered this program since its inception in 2004.
· Signed women’s health legislation into law: Gov. Blagojevich signed several pieces of legislation affecting women’s health in Illinois. The “Ticket for the Cure” is a new lottery game to raise money for breast cancer research and services. Senate Bill 12 requires insurance companies to cover screening for breast cancer earlier in a woman’s life if her doctor considers her to be at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. House Bill 3564 expanded and renamed the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund to include ovarian cancer research. Senate Bill 521 requires insurers to provide coverage for ovarian cancer screening tests for women who are at risk. In 2004, Gov. Blagojevich also signed legislation creating a 12-member Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force to help educate the public about cervical cancer and develop a statewide comprehensive prevention and control plan.
· Stand Against Cancer Initiative: Beginning in 2003, Gov. Blagojevich funded the Stand Against Cancer (SAC) initiative, a community outreach and screening program targeting the hardest to reach minority women. It is conducted by a coalition of neighborhood organizations, churches and Federally Qualified Health Centers. In fiscal year 2006, SAC provided more than 18,880 breast and cervical cancer screenings and reached more than 157,731 other women outside of IBCCP through educational programs and outreach.
· Hispanic Breast and Cervical Cancer Initiative: In 2005, Gov. Blagojevich launched the Hispanic Breast and Cervical Cancer initiative, which is closely patterned after the Stand Against Cancer initiative. Women screened through the initiative who subsequently need diagnostic tests are referred to local IBCCP lead agencies.
· Women’s Health Initiative Grants: For fiscal year 2007 $1.6 million in grants was awarded to organizations across the state to continue or implement IDPH health initiative programs. Those programs include: Heart Smart for Teens, Heart Smart for Women, Building Better Bones, Osteoporosis Prevention for Teens, Jump Girl Jump, Understanding Menopause and the pilot program Comprehensive Women’s Health.
· Illinois WISEWOMAN Program: Providing the WISEWOMAN cardiovascular research program in both English and Spanish languages in 21 Illinois counties. The project is targeted toward women enrolled in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and helps them reduce heart disease by leading healthier lifestyles.
· Women’s Health-Line: Increased access to services through Women’s Health-Line and other informational resources. In FY06, the state-funded toll-free Women’s Health-Line responded to more than 2,000 requests, referring women to services and providing more than 223,757 free educational materials to women and community providers. These materials are also available through the department’s website.
Women can find out how to get breast cancer screening and treatment by logging on to www.cancerscreening.illinois.gov
or by calling the Women’s Health-Line at 888-522-1282
or for TTY (hearing impaired use only), 800-547-0466. Information on women’s health issues and programs can also be found on the IDPH website, www.idph.state.il.us