The Latest News


Community Festival of Trees on Display at Library, Online

December 2, 2020 – Take some time this holiday season to view the FHN Community Festival of Trees entrants at the Freeport Public Library or online, and vote for your favorite through Saturday, Dec. 12.

The FHN Community Festival of Trees brings organizations from across the area to decorate holiday trees, with cash prizes awarded by a panel of judges and the public. In accordance with COVID-19 precautions, this year's trees are located a safe distance apart from each other and also can be viewed online via a link at www.fhn.org/festivaloftrees. The Community Festival of Trees is on display free at the Freeport Public Library from Monday, Nov. 30 through Saturday, Dec. 26. The Freeport Public Library is located at 100 E. Douglas Street in Freeport.

The public is encouraged to vote for the People's Choice Award winner at the library or online through Saturday, Dec. 12.

The top vote-getter for People's Choice will take home $500. The second-place award for People's Choice is $200 and the third-place People's Choice award is $100. Ballots are available at the library and votes will be taken through the end of the library's operating hours (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) on Saturday, Dec. 12.

The formal panel of judges will award three prizes, as well: First prize is $500, second prize is $300 and third prize is $150.

For more information on the Community Festival of Trees or any of the FHN Festival of Trees events, visit www.fhn.org/festivaloftrees.

FHN Parent Enrichment Program Moving to Regional Office of Education

December 1, 2020 – The Parent Enrichment Program (PEP) at FHN Family Counseling Center is transitioning to the Regional Office of Education as of January 1, 2021. The program, which is free and available to eligible families prenatally and with children up to age 5 in Stephenson and Jo Daviess counties, works with parents to help them give their children the best possible start in life through education in a variety of areas such as child development, nutrition, discipline and more.

“This grant-funded program has been a joint effort between FHN and the Regional Office of Education for many years,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer Kathryn J. Martinez, MSN, RN, FACHE. “In reviewing its primary purpose together, both organizations concluded that it is actually best suited to be integrated within the educational offerings of the Regional Office of Education while allowing FHN to focus on our core competency of clinical care through such services as those offered through the Family Counseling Center and the new Dr. Ravi and Mrs. Minu Vyas Crisis Stabilization Center there.”

Aaron Mercier, Regional Superintendent of ROE#8, concurred that the PEP is well-designed to integrate into the many other services offered by the Regional Office of Education for parents of students in the area. “Parent educators in the program not only provide parents with information on child development but can also connect them to resources in the community that may be needed to ensure that area children have the best home environment to support their in-school education. We can help parents identify their children's strengths and abilities as well as addressing any areas of concern.”

Staff of the program at FHN will be offered the opportunity to transition to the Regional Office of Education with the program.

FHN Offering Virtual Bingo & 'The Grinch' for Family Fun, Prizes

November 25, 2020 – FHN will present an evening of free family fun and prizes with Virtual Bingo Night as part of this year's Festival of Trees celebration.

Families are invited to register online at www.fhn.org/festivaloftrees to get a virtual bingo card and a link to the Zoom activity set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1. There is no cost to participate, but registration ends Sunday, Nov. 29.

Bingo numbers will be called via Zoom technology, and participants also will be treated to a performance of “The Grinch” by Freeport High School theater students as part of the evening's entertainment. There is no fee to register or watch, but participants are encouraged to donate non-perishable food items to a local food pantry. Prizes for the evening include gift cards to local merchants.

For more information on any FHN Festival of Trees event, visit www.fhn.org/festivaloftrees.

State of Illinois Offering Free COVID-19 Testing Dec. 4 & 5

November 24, 2020 – The State of Illinois, through the Stephenson County Health Department, is sponsoring a community test site for the COVID-19 virus in Freeport. Anyone can get tested at no cost, even if they do not have symptoms.

Simple nasal swabs will be used for the test, and results will be delivered via phone call within 4 to 7 days. Persons are asked to bring their insurance card, if they have one; they can still be tested without an insurance card.

Tests will be given from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 5 in Parking Lot C at Highland Community College, 2998 W. Pearl City Road in Freeport. Participants are asked to use the Pearl City Road entrance.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

FHN Offering Drop-Off Spots for Letters to Santa

November 19, 2020 – Precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have made visiting with Santa impossible this year, so FHN is inviting children to write a letter to Santa this holiday season.

“We don't want Santa or anyone else to get sick, so we've asked some elves around town to help us get letters to him,” said Chief Elf and FHN Festival of Trees organizer Barb Lessman. “Parents should fill out the questions on the letter template and drop off their kids' letters by Saturday, Dec. 12 to give Santa enough time to write back!”

Decorated letter templates are available at the drop-off locations: The Freeport Public Library Youth Services Department or the front desk of FHN Memorial Hospital, FHN Family Healthcare Center - Burchard Hills or FHN Family Healthcare Center - Highland View Drive, all in Freeport. A downloadable version is available at www.fhn.org/festivaloftrees. Parents may also take a photo or scan their child's letter and return it to wecare@fhn.org.

All children who write a letter and send it to Santa at the locations above will receive a special greeting and small surprise.

For information on all of this year's FHN Festival of Trees events, visit www.fhn.org/festivaloftrees.

FHN Presenting Family-Friendly, Safe Festival of Trees Events

November 18, 2020 – Though things may look a little different this year, FHN is proud to present a full slate of free, family-friendly, pandemic-safe Festival of Trees events for the communities we serve.

This year's Festival of Trees theme is a quote from Lebanese-American writer and poet Kahil Gibran: Kindness is like snow; it beautifies everything it covers.

We will officially kick off the season with this year's Virtual Community Holiday Tree Lighting at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22. Join the fun via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/FHNhealth) as FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley and Freeport Mayor Jodi Miller “flip the switch” on Freeport's holiday tree outside FHN Memorial Hospital. We'll have a holiday sing-along and say hello to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus!

Throughout the season, FHN invites children to write a letter to Santa and drop it off in the Freeport Public Library Youth Services Department or at the front desk at FHN Memorial Hospital, FHN Family Healthcare Center - Burchard Hills or FHN Family Healthcare Center - Highland View Drive in Freeport. Parents can download a decorated letter template at www.fhn.org/festivaloftrees - we ask that parents fill in the requested information so Santa can write back. (Parents outside Freeport can take a photo or scan their child's letter and return it to wecare@fhn.org.) Please drop off children's letters by Dec. 12 to make sure Santa has time to write back!

This year's Community Festival of Trees at the Freeport Public Library will be arranged to ensure social distancing guidelines can be followed, so feel free to stop by and vote for your favorite through Saturday, Dec. 12. The trees, decorated by local service organizations, clubs, and church groups competing for prizes, will be on display during library business hours from Monday, Nov. 30 through Saturday, Dec. 26.

There's no charge and families can win some fun prizes at FHN's Virtual Bingo night, set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Fill out the form and register online at www.fhn.org/festivaloftrees by Sunday, Nov. 29 to get Zoom information and virtual Bingo cards.

Finally, enjoy the beauty of the season at the Freeport Community Luminaria Night with a stroll or drive along Freeport's Stephenson Street and Lincoln Boulevard at dusk Sunday, Dec. 20. FHN Memorial Hospital is proud to join our neighbors in displaying lighted luminaries to celebrate the season.

For more information on any of the FHN Festival of Trees events, visit www.fhn.org/festivaloftrees or call toll-free 1-877- 6000-FHN, (1-877-600-0346) ext. 901.

FHN Experts Discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder, COVID-19 Preparations

November 16, 2020 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE and FHN Family Counseling Center Clinical Director Susan Johnson, MSW talk about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and the organization's COVID-19 preparations in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, people may begin to experience the symptoms of SAD, including changes in eating and sleeping habits and mood, a lack of interest in things that used to be pleasurable and a tendency toward isolating oneself.

Children can experience SAD, as well. “Parents might see their child become more irritable, angry or withdrawn, or see changes in their child's sleeping habits,” Johnson said.

The best way to ease or avoid those symptoms, Johnson advises, is to stay as connected as possible with friends, neighbors, and loved ones. “If you or a loved one is experiencing SAD to the point that it affects your daily life - you can't work, clean your house, or take care of your kids - don't be afraid to reach out to a counselor for help.”

To arrange an appointment or assessment, contact the FHN Family Counseling Center at 815-599-7300.

COVID-19 Cases
Pandemic fatigue may be one of the reasons for the current uptick in area COVID-19 cases.

“People are getting together, and so many of us are trying to make everything ‘business as usual,' which is exposing more people to the virus and driving local cases up,” Gridley said.

FHN Memorial Hospital, while dealing with increasing case numbers, continues to prepare for a possible coronavirus surge. “We have enough personal protective equipment in general, though we can see some shortages in testing kits and surgical gowns, which is the same across the nation,” Gridley said.

The best thing the public can do to help, he said, is to keep following pandemic precautions - wear a mask, stay socially distant or stay home if possible, and keep washing your hands well.

The video, along with all of the previous weeks' videos, is available on FHN's COVID-19 information site, www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

Generation Rx Program Available for Teen Groups

November 10, 2020 – The FHN Family Counseling Center has received funding through the Illinois Department of Human Services to implement Generation Rx, a national educational initiative to promote safe medication practices in an effort to prevent the misuse of prescription drugs. The local team is scheduling free educational programs through the end of June.

The Generation Rx program is offered through a partnership between the Cardinal Health Foundation and the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy. The curriculum includes engaging hands-on activities that focus on teaching teens safe medication practices, as well as techniques for turning down the invitation to misuse.

Studies show that the average age a young adult begins to mishandle prescription drugs - through overuse, sharing prescriptions or using prescription drugs to “manage” life - is in his or her early 20s, so this program aims to reach teens with good information and prevent misuse.

The FHN Family Counseling Center is offering this program free of charge to groups in Stephenson and Jo Daviess counties, including the Boys and Girls Club of Freeport and Stephenson County, church youth groups, school and club sports teams, school health classes, and more. For more information or to schedule a presentation for a group, contact the FHN Family Counseling Center at 815-599-7315.

FHN, County Officials Address Recent Resurgence of COVID-19

November 5, 2020 – With the recent resurgence of COVID-19 positive cases in our community, officials at FHN want the community to know that we have reached a critical point in this pandemic.

Yesterday, the Stephenson County Health Department reported 50 new cases to total 1,466 cases in Stephenson County.

According to IDPH information, as of today, JoDaviess County reported 7 new cases to total 624 cases. Carroll County reported 49 new cases to total 620 cases. Winnebago County reported 331 new cases to total 12,589 cases. Ogle County reported 91 new cases to total 1,646 cases.

These numbers, coupled with a rising positivity rate, currently at 12.8 percent, has moved the region into enhanced state mitigations.

With the number of hospital admissions increasing, healthcare systems across the state are beginning to feel the strain.

“Since the numbers are rising at alarming rates and hospitals are experiencing significant increases in COVID19 admissions, the overall available bed capacity is decreasing, at same time the demands on our highly qualified staff are increasing,” said FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley.

While FHN Memorial Hospital has not yet reached capacity, officials are concerned about what will happen if this trend of positive cases continues.

Additionally, FHN officials want patients and the community to know that current visitor restrictions at the hospital and office practices are an important part of our response to the significant rise in COVID-19 cases. While visitor restrictions can be difficult for patients and families, it's crucial right now that the hospital and office locations limit interactions and preserve physical distancing and ensure that our patients and staff are not put in a position where they could be exposed.

Now more than ever, local health systems across the state are pleading with their communities to continue the preventive measures that can help stop the spread of the virus.
• Limit your contacts and follow the 3Ws (Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Watch your distancing).
• Follow local travel guidance and limit non-essential travel.
• Get your flu shot, and encourage others to do the same.

We must work together to stay healthy and stay safe.

For more information on COVID-19 statistics, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health COVID-19 webpage at www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19.

For updated Stephenson County statistics, visit the SCHD Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/StephensonCountyHealthDepartment.

For more information on how FHN is working to stop the spread of COVID-19 and caring for our patients during the pandemic, visit www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

FHN's 2020 Gala Going VirtuALE

November 3, 2020 – In keeping with safety protocols to help stop the spread of COVID-19, this year's FHN Festival of Trees Gala is going virtual - or, more precisely, VirtuALE.

FHN's VirtuALE Gala will kick off the organization's slate of Festival of Trees events from 7-8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 with delicious food, treats, silent auction shopping, and other surprises, all from the comfort (and safety) of your own home. This year's Gala is raising funds to help FHN respond to community emergencies like the current pandemic.

Tickets are $65 per person, which include a link to the live celebration along with a refreshment box filled with delicious appetizers, treats, and other surprises ready for pickup before the Gala begins. In keeping with this year's theme, attendees will enjoy great craft beers from three local breweries - Generations Brewing Company, Lena Brewing Company, and Wishful Acres Farm and Brewery - as part of their refreshment box.

Ticketholders get advance access to this year's online silent auction items, as well. Bidding begins Saturday, Nov. 14 and will close at the end of the Gala. This year, the auction will be opened to the public (registration is necessary, but no Gala ticket is required) on Saturday, Nov. 21 for any items that do not receive the minimum bid.

Registration is open through Wednesday, Nov. 11 at www.fhn.org/Gala2020.

Funds raised through this year's Gala will help FHN prepare for community emergencies with proper training and making sure the organization has necessary supplies like personal protective equipment and infection control devices. More information on this year's Gala is available at www.fhn.org/Gala2020.

Information about FHN's other Festival of Trees events, including the Community Festival of Trees and FHN Letters to Santa, is available at www.fhn.org/festivaloftrees.

Drug Take-Back Event Set For Oct. 24 at Freeport Police Department

October 13, 2020 – FHN Family Counseling Center, the Freeport Police Department, and Stateline Area Crime Stoppers are partnering with the State of Illinois and local and national law enforcement agencies to give the public a chance to help prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.

Bring pills for disposal between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24 to the Freeport Police Department, 320 W. Exchange Street in Freeport. This will be a drive-through collection event and proper COVID-19 precautions will be taken. (The site cannot accept liquids or needles/sharps, only pills or patches.) The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Unused prescription medications thrown in the trash can be retrieved and abused or illegally sold. Dumping or flushing unused medications down the drain or toilet can contaminate the groundwater supply. The best way to dispose of old medications is to bring them to a take-back event.

Information on drug use and abuse and other health-related topics will be available at the event.

FHN Sports Physicals Return $860 to Forrestville Valley High School

October 13, 2020 – FHN's series of sports physical clinics, held throughout the spring and summer, helped save time and hassle for many area parents, and raised more than $16,000 for area schools. All proceeds from the $20 physicals are donated back to the schools by FHN.

A total of 21 sports physical clinics were held at FHN offices across northwest Illinois this summer, providing 825 physicals and raising $16,500 to donate back to 14 area schools.

A total of 43 students got their sports physicals at a clinic held at Forrestville Valley High School in Forreston, raising $860 for the school.

For information about sports medicine and other services available at FHN, visit www.fhn.org.

FHN Posts Updated Visitor Restrictions for COVID-19

October 13, 2020 – FREEPORT, Ill., October 13, 2020 -- Due to recent surging of COVID-19 cases in Northwest Illinois, FHN has issued stricter visitor policies for all FHN locations, including FHN Memorial Hospital, to help slow the spread of this highly contagious disease.

Effective Wednesday, October 14, no visitors will be allowed in the hospital for patients hospitalized for general treatment/procedures except for emergencies or end-of-life situations. In the Emergency Room and Birthing Center, patients may have one visitor per day, and Pediatrics, patients may have two parents or guardians per day. Throughout the hospital, no visitors under age 18 are permitted.

FHN office practices, including Family Healthcare Centers and Specialty Care clinics, request that patients attend their appointments alone if possible; if needed, one significant other will be allowed. For patients under the age of 18, two parents or guardians will be allowed. Throughout FHN, including office practices, all patients and any accompanying individuals must wear masks.

"These heightened restrictions reflect the surge in cases of COVID-19 throughout FHN's service area and are being implemented for the health and safety of FHN's patients, staff, and providers as well as the public at large," said Kathryn J. Martinez, MSN, RN, FACHE, FHN's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer. "As we move into colder weather where we'll all be spending more time indoors, we know that people are experiencing pandemic fatigue in following the safety procedures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Illinois Department of Public Health. However, we know that we are going to be impacted by COVID-19 for quite some time to come. Please continue to protect yourself and others by washing your hands frequently, maintaining social distance, and wearing a mask, and contact your provider if you think you may be ill."

For more details on visitor restrictions and information about the pandemic in general, visit the COVID-19 section of FHN's website, where a free online screening tool for COVID-19 can also be found.

FHN Experts Talk About Vaccine Development

October 12, 2020 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE and Chief Infectious Disease Physician and Medical Staff President Robert Geller, MD, MS, FACP, FIDSA talk about vaccine development and efficacy in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

“If you can't be 100 percent sure that an illness you may get won't be serious,” Dr. Geller said, “It's better to get a vaccine that might make you feel tired for a few days.” Both Geller and Gridley are certain that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available next year.

In the meantime, they urge everyone to protect themselves and their loved ones from influenza by getting a flu shot. Taking care of one's general health and avoiding illnesses like colds and flu can help to keep the immune system strong and better prepared to fight off viruses like COVID-19.

Following the now-familiar precautions against the spread of COVID-19 are still important, and will remain so until a vaccine is widely available, Gridley said. “Keep washing your hands, wearing masks and staying away from large gatherings, and keeping high-touch surfaces wiped down to help keep your family safe.

The video, along with all of the previous weeks' videos, is available on FHN's COVID-19 information site, www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

FHN Sports Physicals Return $2,960 to Pretzel Fans Club

October 2, 2020 – FHN's series of sports physical clinics, held throughout the summer, helped save time and hassle for many area parents, and raised nearly $8,000 for area schools. All proceeds from the $20 physicals are donated back to the schools by FHN.

Nine COVID-19 precaution-compliant sports physical clinics were held at schools across northwest Illinois this summer, providing 399 physicals and raising $7,980 to donate back to eight area schools.

A total of 148 students got their sports physicals at two clinics held at Freeport High School, raising $2,960 for the Pretzel Fans Club.