April is National Minority Health Awareness Month, and while all general health awareness is important, I’d like to make you aware of a much more specific and quite unknown health concern in African-Americans: Sarcoidosis.  Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that most often affects the lungs and lymph nodes, but can infect any organ.  While it is a rare disease, sarcoidosis can be deadly, especially if left untreated.

According to the Foundations for Sarcoidosis Research (FSR), sarcoidosis can affect anyone, but is most commonly found in African-Americans and Scandinavian Caucasians, particularly between the ages of 20 and 40. Doctors are not sure exactly what causes the disease, but many believe its source to be found in genetics. Studies have shown that a usually harmless bacterial or viral infection can cause sarcoidosis to flare up in an individual with the right genetic code. 

 

In a person with sarcoidosis, the immune system goes into a heightened activity mode which causes inflammatory cells, called granulomas, to clump together in a mass.  Depending on the infected area and the size of the mass, the granulomas can disturb the organ’s function, causing pain, discomfort and in some cases death.  Most cases of the disease heal over time, usually a few years, but some can last longer and even span a lifetime.

 

For more information about sarcoidosis or to find a doctor that treats this disease, please visit FSR’s website at www.stopsarcoidosis.org.  You can also print their helpful brochure and give it to a friend or family member you believe might be suffering from this disease. 

 

Category: Front Page

State Senator Mattie Hunter recognized Youth Violence Prevention Week on the floor of the Illinois Senate on Wednesday.  The campaign, a movement to help end violence amongst our youth, is an annual time of reflection and learning designed to educate youth and adults to use tolerance, respect and conflict management to reduce violence.

In her comments, Senator Hunter discussed the importance of Youth Violence Prevention and asked her colleagues to take a stand against youth violence in their hometowns and neighborhoods.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control is helping lead the way with the STRYVE initiative, a central on-line source for information on how to reduce youth violence through education and prevention.

In Illinois, the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, a state agency tasked with helping to prevent violence and chaired by the Illinois Attorney General and the Director of Public Health, works to find “a comprehensive, collaborative public health and public safety approach to violence prevention”.

For more information, click here for a National Youth Violence Prevention Week Action Kit, distributed by the National Youth Violence Prevention Campaign.

Click here to hear Senator Hunter's comments from the floor of the Illinois Senate {mp3}HunterYouthViolencePrevention{/mp3}

Category: Front Page

(Chicago, IL) – March 18, 2012. The Illinois Association for Criminal Justice today bestowed awards to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman Danny K. Davis and Illinois State Senators Mattie Hunter and Kwame Raoul today for legislative leadership in criminal justice policy.

The association recognized Senator Durbin for authoring the Fair Sentencing Act, which was signed into law in 2010 and reduces the sentencing disparity in the mandatory penalties for possession of crack versus powder cocaine.

IACJ awarded Congressman Davis for sponsoring the Second Chance Act, which provides federal seed grants for programs that assist individuals released from prison to successfully reenter society

Senators Hunter and Raoul also received the group’s recognition for state legislative drug crime reform efforts in Springfield. Hunter successfully sponsored the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission law that addresses racial disparities in justice system’s response to drug crimes.

Raoul won approval for Illinois Crime Reduction Act, a measure that invests in community-based solutions to non-violent, drug-related crime.

“At the heart of our mission, our goals are to advance criminal justice reforms that guarantee equality for all under the law, create safer communities, and reduce the financial burden of expensive and unnecessary incarceration on taxpayers,” said IACJ President Diane Williams. “Congressman Davis and Senators Durbin, Hunter and Raoul embody those goals.”

 “Our mission is to ensure that services and public policies are in place that will reduce crime and restore individuals to stability and productivity in their communities,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), a founding organizational member of IACJ. “We’re here today because it’s vital to recognize legislative leaders when they take courageous stands in matters of fiscal responsibility and social justice. We care about these issues, we understand the impact of public policy in our communities, and we’re paying attention to what happens in Springfield and Washington.”

Sponsored by IACJ, the event was held at the Safer Foundation, which provides services education, employment, and support services for people with criminal records.

Founded in 2010, the mission of the Illinois Association for Criminal Justice (IACJ) is to ensure quality, comprehensive and coordinated services for people with criminal histories through the education of the public, advocacy, and community capacity building. For more information, please visit: www.illinoiscriminaljustice.org.

Category: Front Page

SPRINGFIELD, IL – In 2011, national youth employment was at its lowest level in post- World War II history at 26 percent. A Senate Resolution sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D – Chicago) urges Congress to pass legislation that would invest in youth employment opportunities that benefit both young individuals and communities. The Senate Resolution recently passed out of the Senate State Government and Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

"Studies have shown that teens that have steady employment during their high school years are less likely to drop out of school and are more likely to have higher earnings in their twenties," Hunter said. "I know that unemployment is effecting every generation, but we must invest in our youth to allow them the opportunity to gain a stable work ethic and to gain experience to build a resume."

Senate Resolution 596 urges Congress to pass the $5 billion Pathways Back to Work legislation. The legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative George Miller and in the Senate by Senator Richard Blumenthal. The funding would be allocated for summer and year-round employment, education, and training. Pathways Back to Work is an expansion on the $1.2 billion President Obama and Congress allocated to summer youth employment in the 2009 stimulus that employed over 330,000 youth nationwide.

At the state level, youth unemployment in Illinois last year was 73 percent for teenagers 16 to 19 years old, with minority teens experiencing the heaviest unemployment rates. Senator Hunter recently introduced Senate Bill 3660 moving the Youth Empowerment Program to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The program would provide competitive grants for local community-based non-profits, educational facilities, and government agencies to hire up to 5,000 low-income youths each summer. Each youth, age 14-21, would be given a stipend of $7.50 an hour up to 200 hours over a 10-week period.

"Families are struggling, and teens want to get involved in helping their families financially," Hunter continued. "Not only will they be able to give assistance in their home finances if necessary, but they will also be off the streets and in an environment encouraging personal and community growth."

Category: Front Page

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