What we do at SJNN

Uncovering injustice through in-depth, community focused reporting. The Social Justice News Nexus explores issues of crucial impact in our communities through innovative reporting, critical reflection and building connections between student reporters and professional journalists. This promo video encapsulates what we have produced in the 2014-15 cycle. 

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From the Clinics to the Jail: The Mental Health Care Crisis in Chicago

Story by Penny Yi Wang and Rachel White for Social Justice News Nexus blog

Three years ago, Chicago closed half its public mental health clinics, a crucial source of care for low-income people, Blacks and Latinos. With a lack of other options, the Cook County Jail is known as the region’s biggest mental health care provider. Thousands of people with mental illness are housed there, often because of crimes of survival related to their illness. Jail officials and advocates struggle to address the problem.

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Mentally ill behind bars

This heat map shows a snapshot of home addresses, by ZIP code, of Cook County Jail detainees who self-identified as living with mental illness on Jan. 29, 2015. The map is created in collaboration with Christine Watcher from the Chicago Reporter and published  on the Reporter.

Sheet 1

Notes: The darker the color red on the map, the higher the number of detainees who reported having a mental illness. Some ZIP codes on the edges of Cook County spill into adjacent counties.

Source: Cook County Sheriff’s Office

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Mental health advocates march to demand rights

Mental health advocates marched in the Chicago winter chill on Feb 5th. The organizing team is part of the Mental Health Movement, which works with both mental health service providers and customers to lobby and improve the state of mental health services in Chicago.

Almost three years ago, the city closed six public mental health clinics. The march, which took place while the last mayoral debate was going on at ABC 7 studio downtown, aimed to educate candidates about the value of public mental health clinics to low income and minority communities.

Advocates also proposed their vision for Chicago’s public mental health services in the next years. They urged the city council to open or reopen two clinics each year for four years to establish a safety net for the mentally ill across the city.

“It would only cost each taxpayer 25 cents a month to keep the clinics open,” said N’Dana Carter, an activist with the Movement. “It is affordable and desperately needed service.”

In addition, members of the march demanded greater educational effort from the Public Health Department to let people know that there are accessible resources in their communities when they are feeling depressed or anxious.

[A version of this blog post is on Social Justice News Nexus; More photos on flickr]

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SpotHero shifts into high gear with parking app

By Penny Yi Wang

Parking in the city is never easy, but SpotHero, a Chicago-based technology company, has found a way to help commuters.  The start-up’s mobile apps find discounted parking spots in real time and allow users to pay online or in the app. The company, which launched in 2011 with three co-founders, now has 30 employees. SpotHero has just added four new cities to its roster of seven.

Shot on an iPhone 6. Music: Batty McFaddin by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

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