(WTTW News)

While overall crime in Chicago is down, the number of shootings and homicides are on the rise, with 131 killings recorded so far in 2021—Chicago’s deadliest first quarter since 2017.

A bill sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk Friday declares violence a public health crisis and addresses health care inequities that disproportionately impact communities of color.

Illinois House Bill 158 expands medical services to low-income and underserved communities, improves health care worker training and tackles multiple health-related issues like maternal health and infant mortality, the opioid epidemic and sickle cell anemia through various programs and directives.

The Illinois departments of public health and human services will also embark on a study to identify “high violence communities” for program funding and economic development. Public funding will be appropriated by future Illinois General Assembly bodies.

Rev. Anthony Williams, who lost his son to gun violence in 2018 and has pushed for years to have violence recognized as a public health emergency, says the landmark legislation will help turn around the state’s most under-resourced areas.

“I think that communities and business franchise communities and citizens as a whole will have the necessary tools to be able to stagnate, counteract, eradicate some of this violence,” Williams said. “Those monies will be going into places that never received monies before because we’ve got to deal with this issue of violence from a totally different perspective.”

Williams and state Sen. Mike Simmons, a co-sponsor of the bill, discuss the legislation on “Chicago Tonight.”

Note: This story will be updated with video.

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