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The Sacramento Bee has won the Nieman Foundation’s $20,000 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism for its five-part series “Nevada Patient Busing.”
The Bee’s investigation found that over the course of five years, the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas transported more than 1,500 mentally ill patients out of Nevada by bus, sending at least one person to every state in the continental U.S. A third of those patients were sent to California.
Many patients were sent away without plans for treatment or housing and in some cases, to cities where they had no personal contacts. Some of them were violent offenders who committed crimes in their new cities.
Lead reporters Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese spent months tracking down former patients and others involved in the story, interviewing hundreds of people in the process. The series has spurred a number of changes and reforms. Nevada legislators increased funding for mental health by roughly $30 million and state and federal agencies are reviewing the hospital’s treatment protocols.
The $20,000 Bingham Prize will be presented to The Sacramento Bee on April 10, 2014, at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.
The annual award honors investigative reporting of stories of national significance where the public interest is being ill-served. Worth Bingham, who died at the age of 34, achieved prominence as an investigative journalist and was vice president and assistant to the publisher for the Louisville Courier-Journal. His family and friends created the prize in his memory in 1967. He was a 1954 Harvard graduate.