Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Community project winner to present at APME conference

A small Wisconsin newspaper will show the impact that a special project had on its community during a workshop at the upcoming APME Nashville 2012.
The Daily Citizen, a newspaper in Beaver Dam, WI., won the first APME Community Public Service Initiative competition for its project on mental health issues. The Daily Citizen received a $1,000 grant and a stipend to present a workshop at the APME conference in September.
 The Daily Citizen has been publishing a three-part series that Megan Sheridan calls "Mental Health on Hold." Sheridan, a staff writer and photographer for the Daily Citizen, has been working with reporter Trista Pruett on the project.
With only six reporters, an editor and a layout editor, the Daily Citizen is the newspaper for Beaver Dam, a city of more than 16,000 people about 70 miles west of Milwaukee. Beaver Dam is in Dodge County, which has about 90,000 people.  
Sheridan said the reporting team has found that the waiting list for any kind of mental health care in Dodge County can take from six to nine months. A minor waiting for a psychiatrist may wait for up to 15 months. Anyone needing a medication adjustment may wait three months.
          “Three months is a long time not to feel quite right," Sheridan said. "If you want to get into the system, it's getting more and more difficult.”
Sheridan said she hopes the newspaper can use social media to open up a conversation with readers and find even more residents who are having similar issues, as well as community organizations that are bridging the gap in services.
          “It seems everyone I talk to about the project has a story to tell," she said. "We want to tell about their experiences.”             
          Sheridan and Pruett will present their workshop on the project at 2:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20.
          APME president Bob Heisse, executive editor of the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., said: “We've taken steps in recent years to recognize innovative work in newsrooms, and this new APME program gave an opportunity to a smaller organization. Our conference attendees will find out the result and have another takeaway from Nashville.”             

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