5/5/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: Employee Bright Spot & Press Conference Recap

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Good afternoon, IDHS Staff:

Every day, I am proud of the work that we do across Illinois.

In providing a range of services to help people access their basic needs, IDHS employees are getting so many families through these difficult times. Case managers are connecting families to SNAP benefits at increased rates, engineers have adapted residence halls, security aides are keeping residents and staff safe, and nurses are protecting the health of everyone at our facilities.

These facilities include Chester Mental Health Center, designed to provide care and specialized treatment for those who need assistance to achieve their full recovery potential. At Chester, we are fortunate to have so many dynamic and commendable staff members, including today's Bright Spot, Sara Thomas.

Today's Bright Spot: Sara Thomas (Nurse Practitioner - Chester Mental Health Center)

Like many IDHS employees, Sara found her way to IDHS after gaining experience working for another State agency. Sara spent three years at the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) before taking a break to continue her education, and then joined IDHS's ranks in 2014.

In ordinary times, Sara serves as the primary care provider for 137 patients in Units A, E, and F. She assists patients by helping them understand their medical issues, providing medications, and assisting outside physicians with further testing and consults.

Like many IDHS staff, Sara has taken on additional duties to limit the spread of COVID-19. At the onset of the pandemic, she proactively wrote a response plan and presented it to leadership. Her awareness, diligence, and understanding of COVID-19 were invaluable when a patient at Chester had an elevated temperature. Sara dutifully led the patient and staff through the proper steps to keep the patient isolated, and followed up by ordering proper testing to treat and rule out any cases of COVID.

Sara Fun Facts

  • Sara has two children (three if you count her dog)
  • Favorite movie: Forrest Gump
  • First plan after social distancing: Hug her mom and dad

With IDHS staff like Sara who show up to our facilities each day with a smile, passion for our patients, and respect for her colleagues, there is no obstacle we cannot overcome.

Please see the updates from the Governor's press conference yesterday.

COVID-19 Updates from the Governor's 05-04-2020 Press Conference

  • Thanking Educators: Governor Pritzker took some time to relay his Administration's deepest gratitude and appreciation to educators all across the state who continue to dedicate themselves to our children as they navigate the novel and uncertain waters of remote learning.
  • Rent Assistance: The Governor reiterated his support for alleviating the hardships on renters in Illinois, noting that the State does have rent relief programs at the Department of Human Services, which is working to fully utilize federal dollars to lessen the burden, particularly on working class families.
  • Business Liability: When asked about reports that some businesses may be defying the Stay at Home order and reopening, Governor Pritzker warned that business owners reopening in defiance of the order may be opening themselves up to liability, insurance issues, and possible litigation. He implored everyone to stay the course as we continue to work on ways and protocols to eventually open the state back up as safely and as responsibly as possible.
  • Hospitalization Numbers: As of May 3rd, there were 4,493 people hospitalized in Illinois for COVID-19. Of those, 1,215 were in the ICU, with 763 of them on ventilators.
  • Daily Statewide COVID-19 cases: 2,341 new cases reported in Illinois and 46 additional deaths.

Thank you,


Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS