ICHA is a voluntary membership association open to all Catholic health and social service organizations providing services in the state of Illinois, and to those dioceses, systems, and religious congregations that sponsor such organizations. The list of possible members in 2007 included thirty-one religious congregations, six dioceses including the Archdiocese of Chicago, six Catholic Charities organizations sponsored by the dioceses, forty-six hospitals and the forty-one licensed nursing homes along with the health systems and religious congregations that oversee the hospitals and nursing homes in the state.
It should be noted that Illinois has more Catholic-sponsored, health-related organizations than any other state.
Beginning as Illinois Catholic Hospital Association
The current ICHA is the result of an effort to revitalize the organization following a series of meetings, called New Covenant, which occurred in 1995 and 1996. Many years before ICHA began as an association of hospitals and church leaders with documents dating from 1951. The current association was incorporated as the Illinois Catholic Hospital Association, an Illinois not for profit corporation in July, 1973, with the following seven goals:
- The promotion and realization of progressively improved performances in the religious, moral and professional aspects of patient care, education, research and other programs in the Catholic health facilities in the State of Illinois and all other activities and purposes not inconsistent with the laws of the State of Illinois.
- To provide the means of communication and cooperation in all matters, especially the sharing of facilities, programs, and statistics among the licensed Catholic hospitals, extended care facilities, nursing homes, homes for the aged, and sheltered care homes.
- To establish and maintain orderly channels of communication and mechanisms for cooperation and co-ordination among the members, and thus to encourage awareness of and balanced attention to Catholic action and maintain public witness of the real and active concern of the Church for the human welfare as well as spiritual health of all men.
- To provide the means of communication and cooperation in matters of common concern with the Ordinaries of the State of Illinois, their representatives, Church support agencies and groups such as educational institutions, Catholic Charities agencies, including where helpful development of mutual support and discussion in areas of practical statewide and community cooperation.
- To provide a forum for discussion, understanding, and development of Catholic apostolic opportunities in the health field.
- To maintain and develop liaison with the Catholic Hospital Association, the American Hospital Association, the Illinois Hospital Association, and other duly recognized allied associations and provide orderly and effective channels of communication with these associations and their programs.
- To provide a forum for discussion of the responsibilities implied and involved in the assumption of stewardship for the hospitals and related health care facilities represented in the membership and their growing characterization as a public and community trust.
These seven goals essentially describe the purposes envisioned for ICHA today.
Coordination with Catholic Conference of Illinois
In January 1982 the name of the organization was changed to the Illinois Catholic Health Association, although membership continued to be hospital focused. Records show that ICHA has always worked closely with the Catholic Conference of Illinois when dealing with issues in the state legislature. During the 1980’s the Catholic Conference assembled a Health Affairs Committee that met regularly with ICHA to develop legislative positions for both organizations.
Also during the 1980’s, ICHA came to the decision that it would no longer employ staff, but rather that the board would continue to meet and coordinate communications with the members and with the Illinois Hospital Association on legislative matters under consideration in Springfield, and with the Catholic Conference and the bishops on matters important to the Catholic Church. During the early and mid 1990’s, the President of the ICHA would report regularly to the CCI board on all matters involving Catholic hospitals. It was during this time that the board of ICHA began to function as the Department of Health Affairs for CCI. From the Annual Report dated October 16, 1990, the president of ICHA reported:
“The last two formal annual meetings of the Illinois Catholic Health Association were conducted on May 17, 1985 and April 19, 1988. A close working relationship has been developed between the Illinois Catholic Health Association and the Catholic Conference of Illinois. Your Board served in the dual capacity of conducting the business of this Association and serving the Bishops of Illinois by functioning as the Department of Health for our State’s Catholic Conference. The Illinois Catholic Health Association continues to be an independent organization as provide by its Bylaws. The Bishops have exhibited a very high degree of interest in Catholic health issues and the Board of this Association will continue to work closely with the Bishops and staff of Catholic Conference.
At the December 9, 1988 meeting, Father Michael Place, a guest, discussed the issue of nutrition and hydration with the Board. Board decided that the Boards of the Illinois Federation for Right to Life and the Respect Life office should meet together to discuss this issue. Staff from CHA in Washington, D.C. was invited to discuss the Social Accountability Budget with ICHA Board. CHA wished to conduct several case studies. The Board decided the Association should participate in this study. Workshops would be set up. Results were presented at the meeting.”
Beginning with the national New Covenant meeting in October 1995 and following a state-wide New Covenant meeting in February 1996, an Ad Hoc task force was organized to look into revitalizing the Illinois Catholic Health Association. Discussions continued among religious sponsors, bishops, systems and other Catholic healthcare leaders regarding a possible state association. In late 1997, agreements were reached and new bylaws were submitted to the state to form the revitalized Illinois Catholic Health Association under its current structure.
A search began to find an executive director which resulted in the hiring an individual for this position in June 1998. The association at this time had a board comprised of the six diocesan bishops in Illinois, a representative from Catholic Charities and leaders from twelve religious congregations. Membership was limited to sponsors, bishops and Catholic Charities.
The revitalized ICHA had the following characteristics:
- Memberships open to Bishops, Catholic Charities and Sponsors,
- Dues allocated among those members, at one of two rates, and
- three general directions for activities: advocacy, education, building community.
A staff of 1 ½ was employed to carry out the work of the association.
Recognition of Provider Organizations
Shortly after the arrival of the executive director, efforts were undertaken to bring systems, hospitals and nursing homes more directly into the association. While the general goals and directions continued, the membership transitioned to include the institutions providing services. In 2002, the bylaws were changed to specifically recognize provider organizations as members, while retaining a special status of membership for bishops and religious congregations. The board was redefined to bring representatives of the bishops and the congregations together with leaders of hospitals, nursing homes and charities. Shortly thereafter, the burden of the dues began to shift away from one rate for various sponsors to a dues structure that placed greater emphasis on the number and size of the operating entities. Today the association has the following characteristics:
Membership exists in categories:one for bishops and sponsors, another for licensed provider organizations, and a third for other interested health related organizations,
Dues are determined based on size of the operating entity, with discounts for multiple related organizations (i.e. systems),
The three general directions remain: education, building community and advocacy. A fourth direction, external communications is under consideration.
Over 95% of Catholic Institutions Are Members
Today, the association includes over 95 % of the Catholic institutions, along with 26 of the 31 religious congregations sponsoring health services, and all six bishops together with their Catholic Charities organizations.
Download the Illinois Catholic Health Care Association (ICHA) Brochure
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