Originally, the area which now forms Will County, Illinois was covered principally by prairie. The inhabitants were Potawatomi Indians who lived by farming and trapping. In the late 1800’s fur traders from Europe, French as well as English, penetrated the area in search of beaver, muskrat, and other pelts. These early settlers included Louis Joliet, who in 1673 was one of the first to realize the potential of transportation through the area, from the Great Lakes on the east to the Mississippi River on the west. This dream later became a reality in 1822 when Congress appropriated land to the State of Illinois to construct a canal – the Illinois and Michigan Canal. While fur trading played out during the first half of the nineteenth century, the population grew as settlers came in. The first permanent settlement of whites in the area was on the Du Page River, close to where the Peotone Illinois hospital is now. On January 12, 1836 Will County was formed by act of the legislature of Illinois, which combined parts of Iroquois and Cook Counties. It was named to honor Dr. Conrad Will, who attended the first Constitutional Convention (but who never lived in the area of Will County).
Six months following the creation of Will County, work began on the ninety-six mile long Illinois and Michigan Canal. This manmade waterway connected the Chicago and Illinois Rivers. Opening on April 10, 1848, the I & M Canal was the final section of the continuous inland water route from the North Atlantic Coast to the Gulf of Mexico. This project, and subsequent commercial development of the area, brought a large flow of developers and laborers into the area, and shifted the center of the Midwestern trade from the city of St. Louis to the city of Chicago. This trend continued through the early years of the twentieth century, but the I & M Canal finally closed down in 1915. By that time transportation of all but the most bulky cargo had shifted to railroads; and also to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and Manhattan Illinois hospital, which had opened in 1900. The importance of the I & M Canal was officially recognized by President Ronald Reagan on August 24th, 1984 when he signed special legislation establishing this area as the country’s first National Heritage Corridor. The original headquarters of the I & M Canal in Lockport Illinois is now the home of the Will County Historical Society.
Another boost to the Will County economy came in the mid-1800’s by coal mining, and later on by quarrying limestone. Will County limestone graces such structures as the Chicago Water Tower, the Norton House, Monee Illinois healthcare; the Gaylord Building, and the Gladys Fox Museum. By the early 1900’s the economic base of Will County shifted as refiners and manufacturers opened new facilities, lured to the area by the convenience and transportation due to the Sanitary Canal. During the Second World War, military production contributed to the area’s further industrialization, and increased population growth mirrored the industrial and economic growth.
According to the Governor of Illinois the state is leading the way in figuring out healthcare issues for thousands of children, senior citizens and working parents in the state and providing access to quality affordable healthcare. Whether they can utilize hospitals in the Chicago area or elsewhere throughout the state, it is a top priority in both the state of Illinois and the nation. The presidential candidates are all touting they have the answer to what this nation needs while Illinois stays ahead of the curve and in many areas is actually leading the way.
Along with the governor, working with many doctors and healthcare professionals at hospitals in Illinois, are numerous medical professionals who are also supporting the efforts to make sure that medical services are accessible by those who need them regardless of insurance and financial status. According to the governor’s office, more than seven hundred and twenty thousand Illinoisans, which includes four hundred and ten thousand children, have gained access to healthcare coverage since the governor took office. For instance, the FamilyCare program has been expanded to provide an additional one hundred and forty-seven thousand working uninsured parents access to affordable health coverage.
As a leader, Illinois healthcare became for the first state in the nation to ensure that all women have access to breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment. One of the ways this was carried out included expanding the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program to provide to all uninsured women in Illinois, regardless of income, access to the screenings that could save their lives. These steps have led to the national increase in survivorship of all cancers due to early detection and treatment of breast cancer and other cancers. Illinois believes in healthcare for all men, women and children, regardless of income, as a right not a privilege.
In that light, Illinois developed a program for those brave men and women who serve the nation by defending it overseas. This program provides access to programs and treatments to keep them healthy when they return to the great state of Illinois. The program is called the Warriors Assistance Program and is the first of its kind in the nation. Some of the services provided include a twenty-four hour toll free phone line which is staffed by health professions to assist veterans with symptoms related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This service also provides pre-emptive screenings for Traumatic Stress Disorder for all returning National Guard members. This is another example of being first in the nation for helping those in need of help without the means to get it otherwise.
Illinois is truly a leader when it comes to setting the standards for programs for those not fortunate enough to be covered for healthcare and get the services they may need to lead a healthy and happy life. We are, after all, the right to pursue happiness in this country. Part of that would have to be maintaining health and knowing that your children have access to healthcare. Illinois is way ahead in leading the nation with providing access to healthcare yet they feel they still have a long way to go.