WITF Reporter Brett Sholtis Selected as the Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee for Mental Health Investigative Journalism

Sholtis is one of nine U.S. fellows under the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism

[HARRISBURG, PA] – Yesterday, the Carter Center announced that WITF Health Reporter Brett Sholtis was selected as a 2021-2022 Fellow under the Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grant for Mental Health Investigative Journalism – a partnership between the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program and Reveal from the Center of Investigative Reporting. A total of nine U.S. fellows were announced today; Sholtis is only the second annual awardee of the grant.
“These journalists are making important contributions to lifting some of the stigma associated with mental health issues,” said former U.S. First Lady and Carter Center co-founder Rosalynn Carter in a press release.
As WITF’s Transforming Health Reporter, Sholtis has reported extensively on mental health issues, COVID-19, and health policy for WITF, the NPR and PBS member station for Central Pennsylvania since 2017. Transforming Health is about health care – not only its quality and costs, but the importance of maintaining good health through individual and collective action.
“I am honored to join a wonderful class of fellows who are dedicated to bringing underreported issues to the forefront for their audiences,” said Sholtis. “This would not have been possible without the support of WITF, including Sr. VP and Chief Content Officer Cara Williams Fry, News Director Tim Lambert and Senior Editor Scott Blanchard.”
Per the guidelines, the grant is awarded annually to a gifted journalist who proposes an in-depth investigation into a mental health topic of their choice. The grantee’s project aims to hold a powerful person, institution or government actor accountable for harm or injustice related to mental health or substance use.
Sholtis will explore how ineffective behavioral health policy and militarized law enforcement lead to crisis situations where police arrest or kill people with serious mental illnesses. In an audio feature and online series, he will look at potential solutions to preventing fatal police encounters and ways to address the criminalization of people with mental illnesses.
Sholtis has a history of changing lives through his reporting. In June 2020, his follow up story on Kimberly Stringer, a young woman with schizophrenia, helped to get her moved from a county jail to a psychiatric facility.
“We’re thrilled that Brett’s human-centered approach to storytelling and his commitment to the art and science of health reporting have been honored with this grant,” said WITF Senior Vice President and Chief Content Officer Cara Williams Fry.
Carter Center U.S. fellows receive intensive training from leading mental health and journalism experts and a $10,000 stipend to report on approved mental health topics of interest.
Fellows will receive virtual training on effective behavioral health reporting from past fellows and advisors, connect with alumni, be paired with their mentors, and gain a deep understanding of behavioral health.
The additional resources will assist Sholtis to effect change through journalism.
“I believe we can help shift the norm, making it unacceptable to jail someone who has a serious mental illness,” he wrote in his application. “And we can work to prevent fatal encounters between people in crisis and police.”
About WITF
WITF is a trusted provider of public media news and programming for approximately 2.3 million people in 19 counties of Central Pennsylvania, encouraging children and adults to Live Inspired®. A member station of PBS and NPR, WITF’s media services include public television (WITF TV and WITFK PBS KIDS 24/7), public radio (WITF 89.5 & 93.3), websites (including witf.org, TransformingHealth.org, stateimpact.npr.org/Pennsylvania, and ExplorePAhistory.com), and a production services division (Media Solutions). WITF’s mission is to inspire lifelong learning by connecting people and communities of Pennsylvania through trusted journalism, thoughtful discussion and educational experiences. WITF engages minds and enriches lives. For more information, visit witf.org.
Press Contact:
Sarah Sheehan, 717.919.8924, sarah_sheehan@witf.org