A resolution calling for the dissolution of the Cook County Tuberculosis Sanitarium District (TB District) was signed by Governor Rod Blagojevich on Monday after passing through both houses of the state legislature earlier this year.
The legislation marks the culmination of an effort to eliminate the district which began in 2004, led by the Chicago-based Civic Federation, a non-partisan government research organization, and by Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica. Critics at the time were angered at the district’s insistence on receiving annual tax funding despite a surplus estimated at $9 million gained through the sale of a property in Hinsdale.
Though that initial movement failed to garner the necessary support after the TB District agreed to drop its tax levy to around $100,000 in alternate years, the push was revived by Oak Park Sen. Don Harmon (D-39), who sponsored the recently passed legislation.
The future of the district’s Forest Park facility, located at 7556 Jackson Blvd., remains uncertain for the time being. Both Harmon and Stephen A. Martin, chief operating officer of the county’s department of public health, have said that they’d like to see the building, as well as the district’s other properties, remain open as respiratory treatment centers treating TB and other related diseases.
Martin, who also serves on the district’s board of directors, characterized the county health system in May as “bursting at the seams” and unable to handle an influx of TB patients, also noting that TB patients must be kept separate from others to avoid the spread of the disease.
The TB District currently treats about 120 active cases of TB per year, while its nurses provide treatment to about 2,500 patients with cases of latent TB at home.
Meanwhile, Peraica and Civic Federation President Laurence Msall have both said that they do not believe any evidence has been presented supporting the need to maintain separate facilities for TB treatment.
The Village of Forest Park has expressed interest in purchasing the land on Jackson Boulevard if it becomes available, possibly as a site for a new village hall.
The newly passed legislation allows the Cook County board a year to develop a transition plan for the dissolution of the district and the integration of the services it provided into the county health system. The fate of the Forest Park property, as well as the TB District properties in Des Plaines and Harvey, would presumably be decided once that transition plan has been finalized.