The Mental Wellness Project

The Mental Wellness Project is a solutions-oriented journalism initiative covering mental health issues in Southwest Michigan, created by the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative.

This is a new project built to:

  • LISTEN to Southwest Michigan community members about the issues affecting mental wellness
  • LEARN how we can improve access to mental health services and supports to build healthier, happier communities
  • REPORT on effective approaches that can remove barriers to mental health services

The Problem We Seek to Address

Some progress has been made toward a just and equitable healthcare system, especially with the implementation of telemedicine. However, access to mental health services remains limited due to societal stigma, shortage of mental health professionals—especially mental health professionals who are culturally competent—availability, and affordability of high-quality services to meet the gap in access.

Financial Support

The Mental Wellness Project is made possible through financial support from Solutions Journalism Network, with the mission to spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting on responses to social problems. It seeks to rebalance the news, so that everyday people are exposed to stories that help them understand problems and challenges, and stories that show potential ways to respond.


Our work covers Southwest Michigan with a focus on:

  • Kalamazoo County
  • City of Kalamazoo and Portage, and outlying communities
  • Calhoun County
  • City of Battle Creek and outlying communities
  • St. Joseph County
  • Three Rivers, Centreville, Constantine
  • Cass County

Kathy Jennings, standing, leads a discussion at the January 2023 Mental Wellness Advisory Council meeting.

Advisory Council

In practicing solutions journalism, members of the SWMJC want to engage with people most affected by their coverage to ensure they are identifying the most pressing problems and most relevant responses to accessing mental health services. An advisory council allows the collaborative to do this while gaining fresh perspectives on issues involving mental health through the Mental Wellness Project.

As such, the Mental Wellness Project Advisory Council began meeting in January of 2023 to provide input on what issues matter to them around mental health and wellness; feedback on editorial coverage; and story ideas and sources for future articles.

Mental Wellness Project Members

  • Chris Barnes, Private Practice
  • Latrieva Boston, ASK Family Services
  • Rubontay “Rue” Buckner, The Synergy Health Center
  • Alexis Caples, KYD Network
  • Robert Elchert, SHARE Center
  • Maria Faison, El Concilio
  • Lia Gaggino, Medical Behavioral Health Solutions
  • Jeanne Goodrich, Summit Pointe
  • Gwendolyn Hooker, Hope thru Navigation
  • Amy Reimann, Summit Pointe
  • Charles Thomas, Private Practice
  • A.J. Trager, Integrated Services of Kalamazoo

Not long after Nancy Rubio’s family moved to Kalamazoo, tragedy struck. Her husband was killed in a car crash. Her young son Diego was struggling to cope, so his elementary school connected the family to El Concilio, a local organization that supports the Latinx community, for counseling in his primary language: Spanish.