CARBONDALE — Officials from Southern Illinois University and Southern Illinois Healthcare traveled to Washington, D.C., this past week with members of the City of Carbondale and labor union representatives to make their voices heard for the region.
Brian Chapman, executive director for regional outreach and partnerships at SIU, said it was important for several individuals in the region to serve as a united front when talking to the federal government.
“Having all of us in the same room advocating for the region was a powerful statement to make,” he said.
Giving a nod to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin for making the trip possible, Chapman said SIU wanted to talk to the Health Resources and Services Administration about its grant eligibility as a rural school. He said SIU has been disqualified from several grants because it is part of a Metropolitan Statistical Area encompassing Jackson and Williamson Counties for a population of more than 100,000 people.
Chapman said he had conversations with individuals in the program who gave suggestions on how to rewrite some of the grant proposals to qualify for some funding.
Additionally, Chapman said he discussed the teacher shortage in rural Southern Illinois when he met with members of the Department of Education. He said the administration was aware of the program and will be launching a new grant called the “Quality Teacher Program.”
According to the Department of Education, the key goals of Teacher Quality Program are to prepare and retain effective teachers and school leaders, and to encourage partnerships between social education agencies, institutions of higher education, and community stakeholders in order to improve our nation’s schools and student achievement.
Chapman said the former governor state grant administrator has signed on to work with SIU to help address the teacher’s shortage, and she has connections within the Department of Education that will hopefully turn out to be helpful.
After learning of such connections, as well as learning about grant projects the university would have otherwise not known of, Chapman said the trip was definitely a success.
As for SIH, the healthcare provider participated in discussions about potential expansion plans in the future.
The provider talked about the need for more beds at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale in order to better handle patient volumes. The most recent expansion added shell space on the fourth floor to anticipate the need for private rooms.
Additionally, SIH talked about expansion at the Cancer Center in Carterville, which opened in November 2014. Representatives talked about the need to expand its infusion and oncology spaces in order to stay ahead of demand and anticipated growth.
SIH also shared its need to relocate certain diagnostic services to the first floor of Memorial Hospital to make room for the growth in the Prairie Heart Institute on the Memorial campus.