Demand grows for intractable pain to be on Illinois’ medical marijuana approved condition list

Sen. Steans and Rep. Cassidy deliver petition signatures to the governor.SPRINGFIELD – Nearly 5,000 petition signatures asking that intractable pain be added to the list of approved conditions for Illinois’ medical marijuana program were delivered to the governor’s office today.

State Senator Heather Steans and State Representative Kelly Cassidy, both Chicago Democrats, delivered the petitions, along with a strong message about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s preference to continue appealing a judge’s ruling on the matter.

“Given a choice between showing compassion for those suffering from chronic pain or pursuing a costly legal battle, the Rauner administration chose the latter,” Steans said. “I do not believe that appealing the court’s decision is an effective use of taxpayer dollars. From the number of Illinoisans that signed this petition, I’m not the only one that seems to think so.”

In February, the Rauner administration decided to appeal a Cook County judge’s ruling to add intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions in the medical marijuana program. Intractable pain is a severe form of chronic pain. Patients with intractable pain may be prescribed opioids to cope with this condition.

"Tens of thousands of Illinois residents who are suffering from intractable pain have few choices for relief besides dangerous opiates,” Cassidy said. “Intractable pain isn't going away, but we can provide folks a safer alternative."


Senator Steans presents legislation to leverage federal funds to support the Medicaid program.SPRINGFIELD – Hospitals that serve Medicaid patients would continue to benefit from federal funding under a measure sponsored by State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) which passed the Senate today.

“I have worked with my colleagues in both chambers for several months to develop a new Medicaid Hospital Assessment Program that is fair to patients and hospitals,” said Steans. “This new program supports hospitals that serve a vital role in communities while distributing funding in a more accurate manner.”

The Medicaid Hospital Assessment Program was designed to leverage federal matching funds to cover the cost of services provided to Medicaid patients in private Illinois hospitals. Currently, hospitals receive a flat payment based on a variety of factors, such as the number of Medicaid patients served. The new program would use more recent patient data and phase in a claims-based payment model over the next six years.

“Hospitals are not reimbursed for the full cost of treating Medicaid patients and rely on these payments to help some of the neediest Illinoisans,” Steans said. “I urge the federal government to review this proposal immediately so that service to patients in Illinois will not be disrupted.”

Nearly half of the annual Medicaid payment funds are set to expire under Illinois statute on June 30, 2018. The assessment laid out in Senate Bill 1773 requires state and federal approval before it can take effect.


Senator Steans on the Senate floorCHICAGO – As hospitals, police departments, judges, counselors and coroners grapple with an unprecedented opioid abuse crisis in Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to slash funding for local mental health services and addiction treatment.

That’s counterintuitive and irresponsible, said Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago).

“At a time when thousands of Illinoisans are dying across the state from the opioid epidemic, I do not believe it is prudent for the governor to cut funding for addiction and mental health services,” she said. “The opioid crisis is a serious and multi-faceted problem that requires substantial funding.”

According to an Illinois Department of Public Health report published in December, nearly 2,000 Illinoisans died from an opioid-related overdose in 2016, an 82 percent increase since 2013. More people died from opioids than homicides or car crashes in Illinois, the report stated.

The governor’s budget proposes the following cuts:

•    Community mental health services — $48.4 million
•    Addiction treatment for Medicaid-eligible — $16.1 million
•    Addiction prevention services — $483,000

Steans noted that access to medical marijuana can reduce reliance on opioids and help stem the abuse and overdose epidemic in Illinois. A report from Aclara Research revealed that 67 percent of respondents stopped using opioids after using medical cannabis.

“I believe that expanding access to cannabis could reduce the negative impacts of the opioid epidemic,” Steans said. “I think the governor needs to rethink his budget priorities and his policy stance on this issue.”

Senator Steans reacts to the budget address.SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) issued the following statement in response to the governor’s budget address:

“This is the closest the Rauner administration has ever come to a real, balanced budget, which I appreciate. That said, I have some serious concerns about his cuts to human services, Medicaid and retired pensioners to whom we have a contractual obligation. I look forward to working across the aisle to tackle Illinois’ fiscal challenges.”


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