Sacramento Bee reporters Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese are the recipients of a 2013 George Polk Award in Journalism for their stories about a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital’s practice of exporting patients by Greyhound bus to cities across the country.
Hubert and Reese were among 30 journalists from 15 news organizations recognized by Long Island University in New York for investigative work that judges said changed public perception and achieved results.
The Bee’s stories stemmed from one man’s account of his discharge from Nevada’s primary hospital for mentally ill people to a Greyhound bus bound for Sacramento, a place he had never visited and where he had no ties or treatment plans. The newspaper subsequently found that the facility exported some 1,500 patients by bus over five years, in some cases without arranging for treatment or securing housing for them in advance.
Some of those patients wound up on the streets or in jail in their destination cities, The Bee found.
The stories led to policy changes at the hospital, which lost its accreditation and remains under scrutiny by state and federal authorities.
Among the other George Polk laureates for 2013 are a team of reporters from The Guardian newspaper and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post for exposing the extent of secret surveillance and massive data collected by the National Security Agency; Andrea Elliott of The New York Times for a series of stories focusing on homeless children; and Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for her examination of Milwaukee County's mental health system.
The Polk award commemorates George Polk, a CBS war correspondent murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war.
The awards will be presented at a luncheon in Manhattan in April.