FILE - Cardinal Blase Cupich, Virus Outbreak Illinois Vaccine

Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, left, receives the first of the two Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.

(The Center Square) – The Illinois Public Health Navigator Program, which was started during the COVID-19 pandemic, will continue its work in Illinois after receiving more federal tax funds. 

In 2021, local health departments received approximately $230 million in federal tax funds to perform and improve contact tracing, case investigation, testing efforts, vaccination programs, and community outreach. Despite that funding, a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research gave Illinois a failing grade when combining health outcomes, economic performance throughout the pandemic, and impact on education.  

Now the program will receive another $10 million in federal tax money from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue its work.

"The medical disparities highlighted by the pandemic have not gone away and there is more than needs to be done," Laura Vaught of the Illinois Department of Public Health said. "Now as funding for COVID-19 related programs shifts to an endemic phase, IDPH will be using secure funding from the CDC's national initiative to address COVID-19."  

Paula Campbell of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association explained what the navigator program does. 

"The community health workers provided care coordination and helped connect people to the health care they needed while quarantining when it was impossible to do so for themselves," Campbell said.  

As Illinois starts to make its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Navigator program will now shift its focus, according to Vaught. 

"The experienced and well-seasoned health workforce that has been developed over the last two years will be deployed in 27 counties including 17 rural counties," Vaught said. "The 27 counties were selected using vulnerability indexes, COVID-19 metrics, and counties with the most COVID-19 needs." 

The program will now address four main areas within 27 different Illinois counties, including addressing unmet community needs in coordination with local, regional and state partners. 

Navigators also will provide COVID-19 education and outreach to communities and impacted populations and ease the navigation of care resource coordination for regional COVID-impacted residents and assisting with contact tracing support to the Illinois Contact Tracing Collaborative. 

Of Illinois' 102 counties, the 27 counties for this round of funding include: Alexander, Boone, Cass, Clay, Douglas, Fayette, Franklin, Hardin, Henderson, Jackson, Jefferson, Kane, Kankakee, Lake, Lawrence, Macon, Marion, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Rock Island, St. Clair, Saline, Union, Vermilion, White and Winnebago.

Staff Reporter

Andrew Hensel has years of experience as a reporter and pre-game host for the Joliet Slammers, and as a producer for the Windy City Bulls. A graduate of Iowa Wesleyan University and Illinois Media School, Andrew lives in the south suburbs of Chicago.