Organizations issue open letter asking Pritzker to revise proposed trans Medicaid rule

CHICAGO — A coalition of LGBTQ and health organizations issued an open letter on Tuesday asking Gov. J.B. Pritzker to revise his proposed Medicaid rule for transgender people. In April, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) announced that the state’s Medicaid program would cover gender affirming surgeries for members under new policies being established. Under the new regulation, Medicaid members age 21 and older who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria would be eligible for genital and breast-related surgeries. However, the organizations believe the proposed regulation isn’t in line with current standards of care for the treatment of gender dysphoria and interrupts the patient-provider relationship by denying coverage for procedures deemed “cosmetic.”

The letter states:

“Due to the many limitations and restrictions, the proposed regulations would prevent individuals from receiving healthcare that their medical provider has deemed to be medically necessary. We have shared our concerns in meetings and letters with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ (“IDHFS”), as well as in a formal written comment.”

Read the full letter here.


Legal cannabis in Illinois starts on Jan. 1

SPRINGFIELD —  Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the cannabis legalization bill into law on Tuesday. Recreational cannabis will be available in Illinois on Jan. 1. The last legislative hurdle was met at the end of May when the Illinois House of Representatives passed the bill. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the law makes Illinois the 10th state to legalize pot.

Advocates say Illinois ban on private immigrant detention centers a ‘firewall’

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer
SPRINGFIELD — Critics of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies are calling on state and federal lawmakers to follow the lead of Illinois, which banned private immigrant detention centers and enacted other protections for undocumented state residents ahead of the president’s deportation raids that were planned for Sunday but have been temporarily delayed. On Friday, Democratic Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed three bills into law that aim to enhance protections for migrant families in Illinois—just a day before Trump turned to Twitter to announce that “at the request of Democrats” in Congress, he had postponed for two weeks U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids planned for 10 major cities including Chicago. “Let me be perfectly clear: the state of Illinois stands as a firewall against Donald Trump’s attacks on our immigrant communities,” Pritzker said in a statement. “In the face of attempts to stoke fear, exploit division, and force families into the shadows, we are taking action.” In addition to making Illinois the first state to outlaw private immigrant detention facilities, the state’s new legislation also prohibits local law enforcement agencies from engaging in federal immigration enforcement with ICE and allows undocumented and transgender students to receive Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants and other aid at public education institutions.

New Illinois Bear Contest titleholders announced

CHICAGO — The 2019 Illinois Bear Contest was this past weekend in Chicago at the Jackhammer Bar on the far north side. The winners this year are:

Mama Bear winner – Queenie
Illinois Bear winner – Zerberus
Illinois Cub winner – Boone

The contest was emceed by drag queen Truly Scrumptious from Cincinnati.

Walgreens, Greater Than AIDS to partner with local orgs for National HIV Testing Day

DEERFIELD — Pharmacy chain Walgreens and Greater Than AIDS announced Monday that they would partner with local organizations to provide free testing for National HIV Testing Day. According to a press release, Walgreens will provide free HIV testing at locations in 260 cities on Thursday, June 27, between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. They’ll be working with local health departments, HIV/AIDS service organizations, and other community organizations to provide the testing. “Walgreens continues to support HIV testing since it is a critical first step in developing effective prevention and care strategies, regardless of status,” said Glen Pietrandoni, senior director, patient care and advocacy, Walgreens. “With more than 3,000 HIV-trained Walgreens pharmacists in communities across the nation, we can uniquely support HIV testing, education and care, working towards an end to HIV/AIDS.”
In addition to offering on-site free and fast HIV testing, counselors from local agencies will answer questions about HIV prevention and treatment options, including PrEP. No appointment is required. BioLytical Laboratories, Chembio Diagnostics, and OraSure Technologies, Inc. are contributing donated test kits and Abbott Rapid Diagnostics is providing support for outreach for the event.

LGBTQ Pride flag flies over Illinois government buildings

SPRINGFIELD — The LGBTQ Pride flag has been raised over Illinois government buildings over the past couple of weeks. Last week, the flag was raised over the Illinois State Capitol’s dome. The governor’s office had contacted the executive director of the Phoenix Center, Springfield’s LGBTQ community center, for a Pride flag that could be flown. The center’s exec director, Jonna Cooley, gave the office a flag and it was flying before the end of the week. The Facebook announcing it went a bit viral with many LGBTQ organizations across Illinois sharing it.

Pritzker signs Reproductive Health Act

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act today in Springfield. The act guarantees abortion access as a fundamental right in Illinois. The State Journal-Register in Springfield reported that Pritzker signed the act surrounded by lawmakers. From the Journal-Register:
Surrounded by dozens of lawmakers and abortion rights advocates, Pritzker signed the controversial legislation that he said will ensure that Illinois is “going to be there for women if they have to be refugees from other states.”

“In a time when too many states across the nation are taking a step backward, Illinois is taking a giant step forward for women’s health,” Pritzker said. “Today, we proudly proclaim that in this state, we trust women.

Stonewall Democrats of McLean County change to Stonewall Democrats of Illinois

BLOOMINGTON — The Stonewall Democrats of McLean County have changed their name to Stonewall Democrats of Illinois to reflect their statewide efforts. The Stonewall Democrats are an organization of LGBTQ activists within the Democrat Party. The group made the announcement in a Facebook post on Thursday:
Stonewall Democrats of McLean County is…….transitioning! This page is now called Stonewall Democrats of Illinois! We are joining forces with LGBT Democrats from across Illinois to build a statewide Stonewall Democrats!