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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. This year's cohort has been placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 45 states and Puerto Rico, including two journalists right here at WNIJ. We are thrilled to announce the addition of JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco to our news team, and a new role for WNIJ reporter Yvonne Boose.Yvonne Boose covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This includes how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities.Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco covers substandard housing and police-community relations. An audio producer and journalist based out of Chicago, he’s also been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office.He will continue Sarah Jesmer’s award-winning work at WNIJ covering issues of social justice and identity. Jesmer earned a top award from the Illinois Associated Press for reports including: Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments; Wigs, Lipstick & Sparkles: The Thriving Drag Scene In Northern Illinois; and Kish College: Anonymous Letters And A Controversial Investigation.These reporting positions come at a time when local journalism is already reeling from years of newsroom cuts and unforeseen challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Both positions are partially funded by a grant from Report for America. WNIJ must raise an additional $30,000 in local matching funds. Support these important voices in our community by donating to WNIJ’s portion here.Yvonne and Juanpablo’s stories on our community will be collected below.

New Mental Health Bill Could Mean More Resources in Winnebago County

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http://www.senatorstadelman.com/
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State Sen. Steve Stadelman

 A new mental health bill making its way through the state legislature would mean millions of dollars for increased access to mental health treatment.

 

State Senator Steve Stadelman’s bill would create a roadmap for counties looking to turn local tax revenue into support for those living with substance abuse and issues related to mental health. The Rockford Democrat said counties could see an additional $14 million of aid make its way to where it’s needed most. 

 

“20% of the population deals with mental health issues, but there weren't adequate resources and treatments,” said Stadelman. “And I think the advocates and Winnebago county residents realize we needed a local funding source to make sure these treatments and services are provided.”

 

Back in March of 2020, voters in Winnebago County passed a referendum to increase the sales tax from 7.25 to 7.75%.

 

Stadelman said that, given the current health crisis, these new funds are especially important. “I think you can argue [that] with the pandemic, the need for mental health services and treatment is even greater than ever,” he said.

 

The new tax revenue would then be steered toward expanding mental health resources. Stadelman’s proposed legislation would require counties with approved mental health referendums to create a seven member board of health professionals and advocates to administer the new funds. 

 

The bill has passed the Illinois Senate and is now being considered by the House of Representatives.

 

  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ.

 

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