COLUMBIA, Mo. —The Association of Health Care Journalists has awarded AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance to five journalists, whose proposals stood out among the pool of other talented applicants. The program, supported by The Commonwealth Fund for the 12th year in a row, is designed to help journalists understand and report on the performance of local health care markets and the U.S. health system in its entirety.
The fellowship covers the cost of attending seminars and AHCJ conferences, and a $4,000 project allowance is available to defray the cost of field reporting, health data analysis and other project-related research. Each fellow will receive a $2,500 fellowship award upon the successful completion of projects. Recipients will continue their jobs during the coming year while also receiving customized training, mentoring and financial support for field reporting and conference and workshop attendance. Continue reading
AHCJ wrapped up its first-ever Summit on Mental Health on Thursday night, with speakers highlighting the strain the pandemic placed on many Americans — especially the young — and spotlight speakers outlining solutions to a mental health care system that leaves many people’s needs unaddressed.
The summit featured three spotlight speakers who emphasized the gravity of the mental health situation and the barriers to care, why traditional treatments aren’t working, and what is being done in Congress to help fix what keynote speaker Vikram Patel, M.D. called a broken mental health system. “It is failing,” Patel told attendees, as he presented data that showed that in spite of massive U.S. spending on mental health care, key measures show no improvement and/or a decline in Americans’ mental health.
Patel presented his vision for a community-based approach to care that teaches lay people to provide short-term intervention in places — including in the U.S. — where mental health care is scant or non-existent.
Spotlight speaker Bessel van der Kolk, M.D, a psychiatry professor and founder and medical director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Mass., and author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Body Keeps the Score,” spoke earlier in the week in a similar vein. “Our diagnostic system is in a shambles,” he said during a Q&A session on Tuesday. Despite advances in the psychotherapeutic drugs, he said, data show there are more depressed people now than there were in 1972. “We need to really explore how we can change the mind,” said van der Kolk, whose work focuses on addressing trauma through the body.
Rep. Katie Porter, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 45th District, the spotlight speaker on Wednesday, talked about a particular aspect of the U.S. mental health care system that is desperately in need of change — the intersection between mental health and the criminal justice system. She talked about the promise of the recently introduced Mental Health Justice Act, a bill that would create mental health responders who can be dispatched in a mental health crisis rather than involving law enforcement whose interventions too often result in injury or death for people struggling with mental illness.
From devastating death tolls, strict stay-at-home orders, virtual learning, and a constant state of uncertainty, it’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the state of mental health on a global scale.
Anxiety, depression, suicide ideation and substance abuse rates have surged to alarming levels, with Black and Hispanic communities disproportionately impacted by this crisis in the United States, according to the CDC. To address these growing concerns, AHCJ decided for the first time ever, to dedicate its fall summit entirely to mental health.
“When brainstorming about a theme for this workshop, we realized we have never had a program dedicated specifically to mental health,” said AHCJ Executive Director Andrew Smiley. “During the pandemic, mental health has continued to rise to the forefront as an issue of paramount importance for journalists. We are excited about the panels and sessions assembled for the summit and are confident that our members will generate fantastic story ideas from participating in these sessions.”
AHCJ’s Summit on Mental Health, to be held from Nov. 8-11, 2021, will bring together some of the brightest, most accomplished researchers, educators and visionaries across the country. Experts from major health care providers, public health entities, research institutions and nonprofits will discuss a wide range of mental health topics from the impact of social isolation on the aging community and the impact of the pandemic on teen substance abuse to the complicated topic of vaccine hesitancy and how to report on suicide. AHCJ core topic leaders and faculty as well as a few other seasoned health care journalists will moderate the panel discussions.
Erica Tricarico, a graduate of Howard University and the master’s program in journalism at CUNY, will join the staff of AHCJ on Monday, Sept. 20, as managing editor.
Tricarico comes to the organization from MJH Life Sciences in Cranbury, N.J., where she managed an editorial team producing content on animal care. Before that, she was a freelance health care reporter for Everyday Health.
She will produce and edit content to support AHCJ’s many member services, including events, core topic materials and other web-based resources as well as news releases, conference programs and newsletters. Continue reading
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The AHCJ board of directors has elected new officers who will serve two-year terms beginning Oct. 1.
Felice J. Freyer was elected president. She has served as vice president since 2017 and has chaired AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee since 2009, spearheading the committee’s efforts to intervene and speak out when reporters encounter obstacles to information. The committee has sponsored two membership surveys, met with HHS public affairs officials to push for greater transparency, held yearly workshops, and established a portal for tracking and responding to information blockades. As a health care reporter for The Boston Globe, she has covered almost every aspect of health and medicine, with a focus on mental health and addiction. During the pandemic she embedded at a hospital ICU, revealed the plight of COVID-19 “long-haulers” and tracked the vaccine roll-out. Previously, she was the medical writer for The Providence (R.I.) Journal. Follow her on Twitter at @felicejfreyer. Continue reading