'Here & Now' Highlights: Cindy Bourget, Suzanne Becker, Janet Protasiewicz

Here's what guests on the January 27, 2023 episode said about student mental health, high demand for FoodShare benefits and running in the 2023 election for Wisconsin Supreme Court.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

January 30, 2023

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Frederica Freyberg sits at a desk on the Here & Now set and faces a video monitor showing an image of Cindy Bourget.

Frederica Freyberg and Cindy Bourget (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

In his State of the State address, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared 2023 the “Year of Mental Health” and proposed spending hundreds of millions of dollars toward providing student support services — Cindy Bourget, an academic counselor at Elk Mound Middle School, described the high need. As of March 1, 2023, FoodShare benefits expanded during the pandemic will end, and Suzanne Becker who runs a food bank in Eau Claire said households struggling with the high cost of food are worried. Four candidates are running in the Feb. 21 primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court — in the second of four interviews with these candidates, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz discussed running as a liberal.


Cindy Bourget
Counselor, Elk Mound Middle School

  • The 2022 annual report from the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health showed fully one-third of kids in the state report feeling sad or hopeless every day. The numbers of those who report having anxiety, depression and suicidal intentions are on the rise. As an academic counselor, Bourget focused on attendance and students who have “school avoidance” as a measurable marker of mental health issues.
  • Bourget: “I think we all as people have felt that urge when we’re anxious to avoid something — and so students tend to be worried about things like grades. They get worried about things like how they’re going to interact with their friends. But there’s also that added worry of ‘I’m not with my parents and I’ve been with my parents for the last two years and what’s happening when I’m not with them?’ To be quite honest with you, a lot of our students are not able to identify why they’re anxious. It’s just there. And so what we have been doing is focusing on building up the resiliency to be able to overcome that anxiety.”


Suzanne Becker
Executive Director, Feed My People Food Bank

  • When expanded FoodShare benefits end March 1, 2023, recipients will no longer receive the extra $95 per month that were provided through federal pandemic response funding. About 400,000 households in Wisconsin – who because of their income eligibility get money through FoodShare to help feed their families – are very worried about the curtailment given the high costs of food and other necessities. Becker has recently observed a more than doubling of people coming to a food distribution site, trying to stock up before the extra benefit ends.
  • Becker: “We’re doing a distribution, and we have a line longer than we have seen since the height of the pandemic. A lot of folks, and we’ve talked to a lot of these folks in there — they’re concerned. They’re afraid the higher future benefits have been a game changer for many people, not only through the pandemic, but also inflation and the high cost of living right now. And so this is going to be very difficult, very difficult to many.”


Janet Protasiewicz
Candidate, Wisconsin Supreme Court

  • Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz is one of two liberal candidates campaigning for the seat ahead of the Feb. 21 primary election. Two conservative candidates are also in the running. The April 4 general election will determine the ideological balance of the court. Protasiewicz explained why she got into the race.
  • Protasiewicz: “How critically important the race is and how critically high the stakes in this race are — I was at a pretty comfortable position in my life, quite frankly, and I sat back and started thinking about this race last spring. And the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t sit back and let partisan far-right extremists hijack our Supreme Court, because everything we care about is on the line. Everything I care about is on the line. I think that everything many, many people care about is on the line. I’ve had contested races. I like to campaign. I like people. The issues are so absolutely critical. I decided to get into the race.”
  • Here & Now senior political reporter Zac Schultz is conducting interviews with each of the four candidates running for Wisconsin Supreme Court leading up to the Feb. 21 primary. Two candidates will then advance to the April 4 general election, with the winner determining the ideological balance of the court.


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