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Cook County Public Guardian finds major issues within YouthCare system

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Springfield, IL - Illinois is preparing to move DCFS youth into its new healthcare program on September 1. The transition to YouthCare was initially set for April 1, but the Pritzker administration delayed the move due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the top attorney for abused and neglected children in Cook County says there are still problems to address.

On Friday, Charles Golbert sent a letter to Gov. JB Pritzker explaining why he feels DCFS and Illinois Healthcare and Family Services still aren't prepared to launch the program. The Cook County Public Guardian's office tested the YouthCare website with a hypothetical situation: a 10-year-old needing a primary care physician in Lake County. The site provided 108 results, but Golbert's team found significant problems when calling the providers.

"Lots of them have retired, lots of them had moved their practices years ago so that they're no longer within a 10-mile radius," Golbert said. "A lot of them were no longer taking patients, and a lot of them were no longer taking pediatric patients. They only took patients over 18 years old."

He was shocked to find out three of the listed providers were convalescent nursing homes. Another location was a weight loss clinic. Golbert's team is also concerned most of the providers have never even heard of YouthCare or don't take Medicaid patients. After making those calls, the Public Guardian's office found only seven of the 108 listed providers could see their hypothetical patient. He says that's unacceptable, and the system isn't ready yet.

"Now is not the time to precipitously launch into a complex new health program for 18,000 of some of our state's most vulnerable children with complex medical needs as COVID-19 is getting worse in our state."

Golbert feels the state should have learned from the transition for former youth in care to the YouthCare system on February 1. A "glitch" in the program left 2,500 children without coverage. DCFS and HFS officials say they've worked out those glitches over time, but Golbert is still concerned.

"I fear another episode where we go live on September 1 and thousands of children can find themselves dropped from care, and for a period of time they're not able to access doctors, pre-scheduled surgeries, medical supplies and so forth."

The Capitol Bureau requested comment from the Pritzker administration and DCFS, but they have not responded at this time.

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Mike Miletich

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