SJNN Fellow LaRisa Lynch wins Illinois Press Association award

La Risa Lynch photoCongratulations to Social Justice News Nexus Cycle 1 Fellow LaRisa Lynch – Her fellowship stories about the Affordable Care Act and insurance coverage for drug treatment recently won an Illinois Press Association Best of the Press Award! LaRisa’s two-part series published in the Austin Weekly News won first place in its category.

Judges described LaRisa’s work as “Timely, well-written, well-thought. An absolutely top-notch effort. This one is the winner. This series is a real button-pusher. It fills the information gap that gossip and assumption cannot.”

In her first story LaRisa showed how the Affordable Care Act could change options for drug treatment for low-income people like Delvertis Duke, who had struggled with addiction for three decades and spent time in Cook County Jail, where up to 75 percent of arrestees test positive for drugs.

LaRisa’s second story looked at Medicaid expansion in Illinois as part of the Affordable Care Act, and how Medicaid’s move to managed care networks could make it harder for people to get treatment.

LaRisa’s reporting focused on low-income, African American West Side neighborhoods where drug treatment options are limited, and featured the call of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis for “treatment on demand.”

“The idea being that the best time to service substance abuse users and individuals with mental health problems is when they decide that now is the time to get treatment,” said Davis, who represents the West Side. “If they go seeking treatment and there is no treatment available for them, they may change their minds and never come back.”