4/5/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Good afternoon IDHS:

I hope in the recent weeks, and always, you know how proud I am to work with all of you. Whether you are in a local FCRC, a DMH or DDD facility, or working from home supporting IDHS services and programs, I could not be more pleased with the dedication and hard work you all have shown. Every day during this crisis is a challenge, but every day you meet that challenge, and go even further to exceed my expectations.

Below is a transcript of the remarks that the governor shared at the daily press briefing on Saturday, April 4th. The governor, like myself, could not be prouder. Please know, you are supported, and you are appreciated.



Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS

Saturday, April 4

Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for taking some time out of your Saturday to join us.

In addition to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, today we're joined by three additional members of my Cabinet: Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou, Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Linda Chapa LaVia, and Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith.

Along with my administration's commitment to maintain the critical services that our residents need during this crisis, we are also responsible for protecting the health and safety of the state employees who deliver those services.

I feel extremely fortunate to have an incredible team by my side, including the cabinet members leading the Emergency Management Agency, Public Health Department, Human Services, Children and Family Services, and my Governor's office staff - all of whom are working day and night to see Illinoisans through this public health crisis. I just want everyone to know that when we talk about Essential workers, that includes the many public servants who are among those saving lives and making life a little easier for all Illinoisans.

As I announced a few weeks back, just like many businesses our state agencies have directed many of their employees to work from home.

In addition to Dr. Ezike, the three individuals behind me today - Secretary Hou, Director Smith, and Director Chapa LaVia - lead three of the agencies that provide critical services that our workers can't do from their homes. I've asked the three of them to join today's daily update so that you can hear directly from agency leadership about how they are managing to provide those services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those who are less familiar with the workings of state government: there are frontline workers at these agencies who spend their days and nights caring for our most vulnerable Illinoisans even in normal times. Those responsibilities don't go away during a global pandemic - and in fact, they become even more critical.

At the Department of Human Services for example, state workers at our mental health hospitals and centers for people with developmental disabilities continue to serve adults and young people in their care. At Children and Family Services, our investigators are protecting our children and families by responding to reports of alleged abuse and neglect that continue to be reported to our hotline. And for Veterans Affairs, our teams at our Veterans' homes are ensuring our state's military heroes receive the care they deserve.

I want to express my gratitude to these state workers who have made public service their life's work. They are still doing their jobs every day, spending hours away from their own families to care for some of our most vulnerable residents. They, too, are heroes.

In just a moment, I'll have each of our directors talk more specifically about their departments' COVID-19 response, but here's what I can assure you of across the board:

Early action in all of our agencies helped shape existing emergency plans specifically to the needs of our COVID-19 response. They put in strict procedures around visitors in state-controlled facilities, adding new staff health checks and policies, directing as much of our PPE stock as we can to our state frontline workers, and communicating regular updates to family members and other designated contacts of those in the state's care.

All of our actions have centered around a singular focus: protecting our most vulnerable residents, and doing everything possible for their health and wellness.

Additionally, in agencies like Human Services and Veterans' Affairs that have had to close many of the local offices that residents visit for services, we've enhanced online and phone options to ensure a continuity of service. Our directors will give you the specific contact information for their agencies, but let me be clear: There are NO DHS or DVA public benefits that require face-to-face appointments in the office at this time. We're working to increase access to services like Medicaid and food assistance to Illinoisans who find themselves newly in need of help. This is a really, really hard time, financially and emotionally, for adults and children alike, and overall for too many people all across the state. Please know that we in state government are working hard to support you in every way possible.

Before I turn the podium over to Dr. Ezike, I want to remind you of one other thing: for 37 years, the month of April has been recognized as National Child Abuse Awareness Month in the United States. Because of the current circumstances, we have a harder time bringing the traditional amount of awareness to this important concern. But in this moment of heightened social isolation and stress - two of the key factors for the risk of child abuse - it is so important we pay attention.

Every child deserves a healthy childhood - to live in a nurturing, loving home free from abuse and neglect. Even during these times of social distancing and shelter in place, there are still simple things we all can do to keep children safe and our communities strong. Text or call a neighbor who is struggling, offer to pick up groceries for a family and leave them on their front porch, share tips for overcoming parenting challenges on social media. In these stressful, uncertain times, reach out to let families that may be in crisis know they are not alone and there is help available.

Thank you, and now I'll turn it over to Dr. Ezike for today's medical update.

Governor JB Pritzker