The Latest News

FHN Experts Talk about Area's COVID-19 Progress

January 18, 2021 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE, and Emergency Department Medical Director Erich Awender, MD talk about the region's success in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and Dr. Awender shares details on his own fight with the disease in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

Dr. Awender contracted COVID-19 in late October 2020 after about 8 months of seeing COVID-positive patients.

"Since the onset (of COVID-19) in January, I've probably seen 1 to 2 patients each shift, and when we've had upticks, I've seen 5 or 6 or even more each shift," Awender said.

He first suspected he had COVID-19 when he noticed a change in his senses of taste and smell. Dr. Awender missed three weeks of work with COVID-19 and reports his senses of taste and smell and his energy levels haven't yet returned to normal.

His advice to the community mirrors Mark Gridley's - stay diligent about social distancing, wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene and stay home if you are sick.

Gridley reports that FHN's leaders are working with area county health departments to coordinate getting community members vaccinated. Our area is in phase 1a of the Illinois Department of Public Health plan, and the vaccine will be made available to the public as soon as it's possible.

FHN is well-prepared to care for any upcoming surge in cases, with plenty of beds, healthcare staff, and ventilators available. FHN's frontline staffers are in the process of being vaccinated. "We are using both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine," Gridley said. "A number of staff members have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and are now considered to be 95 percent protected from the virus. Several hundred staff members have received at least their first dose of the Moderna vaccine, as well, at the time of this video production."

The video, along with all of the previous weeks' videos, is available on FHN's COVID-19 information site,

FHN Announces 2020 Scholarship Winners

January 15, 2021 – An outstanding group of students applied for this year's FHN Healthcare Scholarships, Diversity Scholarship, and Volunteer Services Scholarship. FHN hosted a virtual event to honor this year's recipients.

The students wrote an essay about their career path along with strengths and personal goals to support the healthcare needs of FHN's service area. The top candidates were invited to a virtual interview with the committee.

After the interviews, the committee chose three $1,000 Healthcare Scholarship recipients, one $1,000 Diversity Scholarship recipient, and one $500 Volunteer Services Scholarship recipient.

See a video of the recipients receiving their awards.

The 2020 Healthcare Career Scholarships winners are:

Rebecca Alexander of Chadwick, who is pursuing an occupational therapy degree at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa

Rebecca Ensor of Freeport, who is pursuing an occupational therapy degree at Allen College in Waterloo, Iowa

Hanna Miner of Pecatonica, who is pursuing a sonography degree at Rockford Career College in Rockford

The 2020 Diversity Scholarship winner is Elizabeth Petersen of Freeport, who is pursuing a nursing degree at Western Illinois University in Macomb.

The 2020 Volunteer Services winner is Adam Thompson of Freeport, who is pursuing a degree in Healthcare IT at Highland Community College in Freeport.

Congratulations to all our scholarship winners!

COVID-19 Vaccinations in Northwest Illinois

January 15, 2021 – The Stephenson County Health Department and FHN are working together to coordinate vaccination efforts for COVID-19 in Stephenson and Carroll Counties in Northwest Illinois. In order to keep the public up to date, here are answers to commonly asked questions.

1. When can I get a vaccination? That depends on which of the identified phases from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), as interpreted by your State and County, you fall into and the availability of the vaccine.

2. What are the phases identified by the CDC? The phases describe groups of people based on potential vulnerability to COVID-19 and/or exposure to others who already have or may have the disease.

3. Who is getting it now? The first phase to receive the vaccine nationwide is healthcare workers. It is up to States and individual county health departments to provide the vaccine - only county health departments can receive the vaccine and the number of doses is determined by the States;. this is not like annual flu shot vaccines which are ordered by healthcare organizations as well as many other places who vaccinate the public, like drug stores or grocery store pharmacies. For the vaccination of first-phase healthcare workers, once a county health department receives a shipment of vaccine, they let healthcare organizations know how much is available and then the healthcare organizations themselves define which workers this includes and in what order, based on staff vulnerability and patient interactions. Because county health departments receive vaccine as it becomes available, no counties have enough initially for the whole population of the county.

4. Who will receive the vaccine next? This is difficult to answer definitively as guidance from the CDC on this has changed several times already and continues to be modified. In addition, “guidance from the CDC” is just that: guidance. States and individual counties are not required to follow this guidance. Originally, the next planned phase was residents and staff of long-term care facilities like nursing homes. However, it is still up to states and then individual county health departments to make the determination of who will be next based on the supply of vaccine that is available to them, which is not consistent across the country. No detailed schedule has been finalized in Stephenson or Carroll Counties as the availability of the vaccine continues to be inconsistent.

5. Why is vaccine availability inconsistent? There is no really clear answer to this, as the media has reported on circumstances that vary widely throughout the country. It is best to keep current on the situation in your own county to learn when it will be available for you. 6. What is the availability of vaccine in Stephenson and Carroll Counties? This cannot be answered broadly as the amount varies. In addition, sometimes a supply is expected and then not received, which can happen for a variety of reasons including rerouting it to other areas where incidence or death rates are higher.

7. When will mass vaccination events be scheduled for the public at large? There is no way to answer this now that can promise to still be accurate over the coming weeks and months, so as of now no mass public vaccination events are planned in Stephenson or Carroll counties. As vaccine becomes available, there will be opportunities to register for appointments for vaccinations. Please note that information being collected now by some entities in the region is not a promise of a vaccination at any particular time; in general, these queries are being conducted to help determine how many people are planning to be vaccinated as the vaccine is being rolled out. Vaccination appointments will then be offered as vaccine becomes available.

The public is encouraged to watch all media, social as well as traditional, for updates, which will be communicated as quickly and accurately as possible. Additional information can be found at the Illinois Department of Public Health ( and the CDC ( Patience is greatly appreciated.

FHN Holding Virtual Hiring Event

January 14, 2021 – FHN is accepting applications and holding virtual interviews for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs), experienced Registered Nurses (RNs), and Behavioral Health Technicians through January 28.

Interested candidates can apply online at any time; qualified candidates will be contacted to arrange a virtual interview beginning Monday, Jan. 18.

All positions offer a competitive salary, day-one benefits, tuition assistance and opportunities for career advancement. Commitment awards are available for all positions.

Candidates must complete a formal application online before the interview is conducted. For more information or to apply online, visit Information is also available through FHN Human Resources at 815-599-6706.

Crisis Stabilization Center Opens at FHN Family Counseling Center

January 5, 2021 – The Dr. Ravi and Mrs. Minu Vyas Crisis Stabilization Center at the FHN Family Counseling Center, a special unit to serve people facing a substance abuse or behavioral health crisis, has opened and is available to serve patients.

Before the Crisis Stabilization Center (CSC) was available, someone experiencing a mental health crisis may have spent many hours, or even days, in the Emergency Department at FHN Memorial Hospital )or another hospital) until they could be transferred to an inpatient unit or stabilized and released back into the community. The (CSC) gives them another option to receive coordinated care in a local, relaxing, living room-type environment until they can be transferred or until a care plan can be established and the patient is better prepared to go home.

The CSC's open floor plan allows staff to monitor patients in a home-like setting where they are free to read, watch TV, sleep, or talk when they are not in individual or group counseling sessions, which are scheduled daily. Patients are cared for by a multidisciplinary team including a psychiatric provider, psychiatric nurses, and mental health therapists, all dedicated to helping them cope.

Patients appropriate for this care setting are those experiencing a behavioral health crisis without present aggressions. The patients must be voluntary to access treatment and willing to participate in the treatment program. This is a 24/7 program, with patients spending the night in the care environment.

Out of an abundance of caution with regards to COVID-19 safety restrictions, no ribbon-cutting or public open house is planned, and no tours are available.

For more information regarding the Center, the public can call 815-599-7800.

FHN Experts Share COVID-19 Update, Give Thanks

December 17, 2020 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE, and FHN Foundation Executive Director Tonya Thayer talk about how our communities have come together during the COVID-19 pandemic in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

“The community has responded overwhelmingly to the pandemic, donating everything from much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to treats and even meals for our healthcare workers,” Thayer said. “We have really appreciated the help, and of course, everyone on staff appreciates the treats!”

The FHN Foundation raises money to support healthcare in our communities in many ways, from equipment like the HANA surgical table and PPE to funds supporting staff education. It is a 501c3 organization, so all donations are tax deductible. There are numerous ways to donate:

• Call the Foundation office at 815-599-6900 to arrange the donation of physical items like PPE or food for the staff or to donate by credit card
• Click the “Give Now” link at the top right of
• Send a check to the FHN Foundation, 1045 W. Stephenson Street, Freeport IL 61032

FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley reports that FHN Memorial Hospital staff have been busy caring for COVID-19 patients in the past few weeks, but they are ready to adapt if there is a new surge of patients.

Hospitals and healthcare systems across the state are working together to help their communities through the pandemic, Gridley said.

“FHN is part of Illinois' Region 1, which includes all of northwest Illinois,” Gridley said. “We connect with each other daily, sharing data and working out how we can help each other. We really all are in this together.”

He confirms that FHN is working with the state on a COVID-19 vaccination plan. The first doses will go to front-line healthcare workers, long-term care residents and the staff at those facilities.

Gridley said that for his family, this holiday season is quieter, but much more meaningful. “We're sharing how grateful we are for our safety and our health, and focusing on celebrating all that we have and how we can help others in our community.”

The video, along with all of the previous weeks' videos, is available on FHN's COVID-19 information site,

FHN Community Festival of Trees Winners Announced

December 15, 2020 – A tree from Jones Farrar IB World School, It's Snowing a Blizzard of Kindness, took the judges' top prize in this year's FHN Community Festival of Trees. The tree also won third place in this year's People's Choice competition, netting the class a total of $600 in prize money.

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. The Community Festival of Trees is on display free of charge at the Freeport Public Library (100 E. Douglas Street in Freeport) through Saturday, Dec. 26. The trees also may be viewed online on FHN's Facebook page,

A Snowball of Kindness from the Open Bible Learning Center Elementary School won first place in this year's People's Choice competition as well as second place from the judges to receive a total of $800 in prize money.

Kindness is Like Snow, It Beautifies Everything It Touches, the tree from the Lincoln-Douglas Elementary School fourth grade, earned second place in the People's Choice competition and tied for third place among the judges to win a total of $350 in prize money. The other tree tied for third place, We Serve to Spread Kindness Like a Gentle New Snow by the Cedarville Lions Club -Lions International, will receive $150 in prize money.

For more information on any of this year's Festival of Trees events, visit

We're Not Out of the Woods Yet - Wear Your Mask

December 9, 2020 – We heard some very good news last month - several vaccines against COVID-19 will soon be on their way.

While the end of this pandemic may indeed be in sight, we aren't there yet. But we do have a way to help stop the spread of COVID-19 - stay home if you can, keep a distance of 6 feet between you and people not in your household, wash your hands thoroughly and often, wipe down frequently touched surfaces, and wear a mask.

Wearing a mask has been proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19. In fact, one study calculated that more than 100,000 lives could be saved by the end of February 20201 in the USA alone if 95 percent of us wore a mask in public, especially when indoors or if social distancing isn't possible. That's more than 1,000 American lives saved each day with a simple precaution.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares these "dos" and "don'ts" on choosing a mask:


• Wear masks to help protect yourself from getting or spreading COVID-19

• Wear masks with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19

• Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin


• Put masks on someone two years and younger

• Put masks on people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance

• Wear masks intended for healthcare workers, for example, N95 masks, which may be in short supply

Make sure you're wearing and using your mask correctly. Wash your hands before you put on your mask, and don't touch the mask while you're wearing it. You should consider the outside of your mask contaminated if you've worn it in public.

When you take off your mask, handle it by the ear loops or ties only - don't touch the fabric of the mask. Fold the outside corners together so the contaminated outside fabric is closed in the middle, and wash your hands after you've put the mask in the laundry.

Most cloth masks can be washed with your regular laundry, using your normal detergent and the warmest water appropriate for the fabric used to make the mask. Dry your mask on your dryer's highest heat setting and make sure it's completely dry before you wear it again.

10 Reasons to Wear a Mask

FHN's healthcare providers and staff are proud to wear masks to protect their patients, themselves, our communities, and you. Here are 10 good reasons to wear your mask:

1. Wearing your mask helps businesses, especially our local small businesses, stay open. The quickest path to opening the economy back up is to control the virus.

2. The COVID-19 virus can travel 20 feet through the air and hang there for a while - and that's not counting sneezes, coughs, and talking.

3. People notice, including our children. Be a role model for healthy, safe behavior.

4. Wearing your mask shows essential workers - which includes everyone who can't work from home - that we appreciate them.

5. Testing for the virus alone, without wearing masks, won't stop the spread of COVID-19.

6. Wearing your mask protects you from people who aren't good at social distancing.

7. Wearing masks has worked to slow other pandemics.

8. You could have COVID-19 and not know it -- a person can be contagious for up to 72 hours before he or she has any symptoms.

9. We can do MORE, not less, if we all wear our masks, like getting back to school, church, and social events.

10. Even with a vaccine on the way, we're not out of the woods yet.

For the past few weeks, we've been highlighting FHN providers on Facebook in our #WearAMask campaign. We hope you'll join us and wear your mask correctly and consistently whenever you're outside your home.

If you'd like to learn more about precautions to help stop the spread of COVID-19, visit our special pandemic information page at

FHN Experts Discuss Staying Safe from Viruses this Holiday Season

December 4, 2020 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE, and Infection Preventionist Margie Kochsmier, MSN, RN, CMSRN, CIC talk about the best ways to keep your family healthy over the holidays in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

Viruses like COVID-19 and influenza thrive in dry, indoor air, Kochsmier said, so the spread of respiratory droplets is very easy, and very likely, as people move indoors for gatherings.

“Keep wearing a mask, staying at home if possible or socially distant if you have to go out, washing your hands thoroughly and often, and wiping down surfaces to remove germs,” Kochsmier said.

Keeping “high-touch” surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, and counters wiped down -- even if it's just with soap and water -- removes germs that can be “picked up” by your family's hands and transferred to the eyes or nose with just a touch.

Gridley reinforces the importance of the “three Ws” -- wash your hands often, watch your distance from others, and wear a mask.

“It's possible to slow the spread of COVID-19, but only with a very focused approach from the entire community,” he says, noting that as of the end of November, COVID-19 officially moved up to the third leading cause of death in Illinois, after just heart disease and cancer. “We need to double down on our safety precautions.”

The video, along with all of the previous weeks' videos, is available on FHN's COVID-19 information site,

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 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

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 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

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

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 Parents may also take a photo or scan their child's letter and return it to

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

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 ( 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 - 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 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 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 or call toll-free 1-877- 6000-FHN, (1-877-600-0346) ext. 901.