“Monitor” series wins national health award
Published: 03/25/2022 16:40:50
Modified: 03/25/2022 16:39:59
A triptych To watch The series, ‘Shots Fired’, which examined the clash between police responding to calls for help and people in mental health crisis, won first place in the National Excellence in Healthcare Journalism competition .
Written by journalist Teddy Rosenbluth, the series won the Public Health category among small media outlets.
The annual awards will be presented by the Association of Health Care Journalists on April 30 in Austin, Texas.
The competition attracted 439 entries from across the country with 14 first prize winners.
“We were thrilled to see so many journalists continue to produce outstanding work in 2021, which has been the second grueling year of the pandemic,” said Tony Leys, reporter for the Des Moines Register and member of the board of directors of the AHCJ. “Many stories focused on COVID-19 concerns, but reporters also continued to dig into the countless other vital areas of health care coverage.”
The “Shots Fired” series began following a nationwide review of police use of deadly force. Rosenbluth reviewed all of the police shootings in New Hampshire over the past 10 years and began to see a pattern — the person who was killed by police was almost always in a mental health crisis.
At the same time, New Hampshire has an eroding mental health system where the number of available beds at the state’s only psychiatric hospital is often filled for weeks. Those who seek help often sit in an emergency room for weeks waiting for treatment.
Rosenbluth found that police had little training in how to defuse encounters with people in mental health crisis. Even so, mental health-related calls often consume the vast majority of their time.
Rosenbluth has meticulously documented how these two issues intersect in the state, often with deadly consequences.
Rosenbluth reviewed hundreds of pages of government documents, interviewed family members and spoke to police and mental health experts to determine why mental illness played a disproportionate role in fatal encounters. More importantly, she tried to explain how the problem could be improved both for people with mental illness and for the police.
“After combing through the proceeds of several public records requests, I have determined that more than 60% of those shot by New Hampshire police over the past decade suffered from mental illness – a statistic that had never been reported before,” Rosenbluth wrote in the contest entry. “Interviews with law enforcement, family members of victims, and mental health advocates revealed that this statistic represents a breakdown of the state’s mental health system, which has failed to helping people before they reach a crisis point.”
Rosenbluth is one of two Report for America corps members currently working at To watch.
“We believe the series represents some of the best reporting in the To watch last year and he identified an issue of immense community-wide significance,” To watch Editor Jonathan Van Fleet said.