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Houston Chronicle Reporter Wins Livingston Award for Series on Texas’ Troubled Mental Health System

Houston Chronicle Reporter Wins Livingston Award for Series on Texas' Troubled Mental Health System

Houston Chronicle reporter Alex Stuckey won a Livingston Award for local reporting on Wednesday for her work on “In Crisis,” a series of articles about families trapped in the Texas mental health care system, secretive and woefully underprivileged. insufficient funds.

The award honors journalists from across the country under the age of 35. Stuckey was among 52 finalists selected from 450 contest entrants. Washington Post reporter José Del Real won a Livingston Award for national reporting, and Erika Lantz and Elin Lantz Lesser shared an award for international reporting.

“It’s amazing and I’m honored,” said Stuckey, 32. “But for me, what is more important is that my work is recognized for this means that more people are going to read the stories and potentially more changes could happen.”

Chronicle executive editor Maria Reeve echoed those sentiments, calling Stuckey’s work “shocking journalism.”

“We are extremely proud of Alex and this well-deserved award,” said Reeve. “And most importantly, his work is creating a much-needed change in access to mental health.”

Stuckey said he had always wanted to investigate how state agencies mishandle mental health services after he wrote about a maximum-security psychiatric facility in Missouri while working at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

After joining the Chronicle investigative team in 2019, Stuckey asked her editor at the time, Susan Carroll, if she could look into the Texas psychiatric system to see what she could find.

“I just, frankly, trusted her,” said Carroll, now a senior editor at NBC News. “I thought she was right, and she has a great instinct, and she followed through on it.”

Stuckey dug up police reports, lawsuits, hospital inspections and other public records and found a trail of pain and tragedy. The documents led to relatives saying they couldn’t get help for their loved ones in Texas and couldn’t find out what happened to them after they were killed in psychiatric facilities.

Stuckey spent 16 months on the project. His stories revealed how the mental health system in Texas is “stressed beyond capacity,” with waiting lists for hospital beds stretching up to a year. State officials rely on private hospitals to fill in the gaps, but those facilities racked up more than 1,000 state and federal security breaches between 2014 and 2019.

After the Chronicle published the first installment of Stuckey’s stories in February 2021, Texas lawmakers approved $400 million that summer for 500 inpatient psychiatric beds and to renovate aging hospitals for Texans with mental illness. “In Crisis” also generated suggestions from readers that led to follow-up stories.

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