AURORA, Ill. — Governor JB Pritzker announced Monday a new program to connect people with the resources they need to get through the coronavirus pandemic.
Dozens gathered during the press conference held at VNA Health in Aurora to discuss the success stories from the program called “Pandemic Health Navigator.”
The network is made up of community health workers who help people get the resources they need — from financial assistance and food delivery to mobile vaccinations. Pritzker says the program can also be used as a resource to help answer any questions or concerns locals may have about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Misinformation packaged as truth-telling on social media makes the decision to get vaccinated nerve-wracking,” Pritzker said. “A critical component of getting Illinois out of this pandemic and keeping people safe and healthy is breaking down those barriers.”
Linda Lawson, a “Pandemic Health Navigator,” has helped serve more than 1,200 requests for resources.
“I knew, but I realized I didn’t truly know to what extent people were basically faceless behind the scenes and that’s how it’s so easy to fall through the cracks,” she said. “The program supports people who test positive for COVID-19 as well as people who need additional assistance during this tough time.”
Education is also a key component. About 57% of Illinois residents have received at least their first dose of the vaccine and 37% are fully vaccinated. But public health experts say a recent survey shows about 20% of Illinois residents are still hesitant to get the vaccine. It can be confusing, especially if people have been denied easy access to health care in the past.
“Our data shows that Illinois residents need guidance, broad community resources, and support in navigating misconceptions and the complexities of the health systems,” said Dr. Tracey Smith of the Illinois Public Health Association.
The state hopes this program will help clear up any questions people may have and be used as an educational resource.
“We are waiting, we are willing and we are excited to be able to take those calls,” Lawson said. “I know we’re all weary and we’ve all been hanging on that rope so whatever fray is left, keep hanging on, because sooner or later, we’re going to get to the other side of this.”
Click here for more information about the “Pandemic Health Navigator” program.