WASHINGTON, D.C. (WXYZ) — The Radio Television Digital News Association today honored WXYZ-TV’s investigative reports on failures inside Michigan’s mental health system with a 2021 regional Edward R. Murrow Award.
The award honored a series of stories by investigative reporter Ross Jones, editor Randy Lundquist and photographers Ramon Rosario, Johnny Sartin and John Ciolino.
“The regional RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Award recipients we announce today produced extraordinary journalism that brought clarity and context to 2020’s biggest news stories,” said RTDNA Chairwoman Andrea Stahlman. “The winning work demonstrates dedication, determination and a commitment to the highest ethical standards enshrined in RTDNA’s Code of Ethics.”
In the midst of a devastating pandemic, a mental health epidemic continued to ravage countless lives in Michigan.
Through its reporting, WXYZ-TV revealed evidence of negligent care and premature patient discharge at hospitals throughout the state, prompted investigations into 71 suspicious psychiatric patient deaths and ultimately changed Michigan law.
The reports revealed:
- how nearly 150 sudden and suspicious deaths of psychiatric patients in Michigan went ignored by state watchdogs for years.
- how premature hospital discharges led to the suicides of men, women and children suffering from severe mental illness.
- a rash of murders in Detroit made possible by a lack of mental health resources and short hospital stays.
- widespread physical and sexual abuse inside a psychiatric hospital that suffered from chronic understaffing.
- how a 46-year-old psychiatric patient's treatment by hospital staff contributed to her death.
WXYZ’s reporting triggered legislation to force state health officials to investigate all psychiatric deaths occurring during a hospital stay or shortly after a patient’s release where the cause is deemed suicide or unknown.
The bill unanimously passed both the Michigan House and Senate. On December 29, 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill into law.
The series will now be considered for a national Murrow award, announced later this year.