SPRINGFIELD — Money for transportation and education projects has been getting a lot of the attention, but there’s also $465 million for health and human service improvements in the state’s new six-year capital plan.
Nearly half of the health and human services money in the Rebuild Illinois plan — $200 million of it — is designated for hospitals and health care “transformation” projects.
What that will mean, exactly, will vary from community to community according to their local needs, says the Illinois Health and Hospital Association.
Transformation is a major focus in health care these days, as care needs and delivery models have been rapidly changing. For example, a growing amount of care shifted from inpatient to outpatient settings, said the organization’s spokesman, Danny Chun.
As of 2016, nearly half of hospital beds in Illinois were going unused, with a 56 percent vacancy rate statewide, according to state data.
Not only that, health systems are increasingly focused on coordinating medical care with the social factors that come to play in the overall health of their patients — for example, violence, lifestyle behaviors and access to housing, food and transportation.
“In short, trying to provide this integrated system of care using yesterday’s hospital building can be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” the Illinois Health and Hospital Association stated in a position paper this past March.
Many hospitals in Illinois have outdated facilities, Chun said.
“How do you meet your local community’s needs as health care continues to evolve? It takes capital funding to address infrastructure change that are part of meeting those needs,” he said.
The timeline for hospitals to access state grants is uncertain, and so are many of the details.
Some of what’s known is that the money will be available on a competitive basis among hospitals, and none of the grants can be used to cover ongoing operations or outstanding debt or be allocated to an invested or endowment fund, according to the state hospital organization.
Before any hospital can apply, the program rules and priorities will first be established by the Capital Development Board and state Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
In addition to the $200 million for hospitals, the health and human services capital funding includes:
— $50 million for community health center construction grants for improvements to new or existing clinic sites.
— $200 million for affordable housing. — $15 million for human services infrastructure grants, focusing on upgrading facilities that provide services to vulnerable and special needs populations.
Champaign-based Promise Healthcare, the parent organization of Frances Nelson Health Center and SmileHealthy, may be among the applicants.
Nancy Greenwalt, Promise HealthCare’s executive director, said she plans to meet with local legislators soon to learn more about the application process.
“We definitely have capital projects that could use support, including potentially expanding our dental clinic and adding capacity for medical exam rooms,” she said.
Also interested is OSF HealthCare, which has already undertaken a hospital transformation project in Streator. Since its former St. Mary’s Hospital in that community closed in 2016, OSF’s renovated The Center for Health includes an around-the-clock emergency center, rehab services, diagnostics, physician offices, occupational health and community education — plus increased collaboration with the community, according to the state hospital group.
“OSF HealthCare is currently examining the recently passed budget and looking at all potential capital funding opportunities,” said Chris Manson, the system’s vice president of government relations. “We are still learning more about how the $200 million set aside for hospital transformation will be allocated, and expect to participate in any discussions as plans are developed.”