April 29, 2024 – We are proud to announce that the 2024 Carolyn C. Mattingly Award for Mental Health Reporting has been awarded to The Seattle Times for its series untangling the complex maze of insurance coverage for mental health conditions. Regarded as the most prestigious recognition for mental health reporting in America, the Award is presented annually in partnership with the National Press Foundation.

Insurance often “feels like an impossible topic to write about,” but these reporters did so in a way that was both fascinating and clarifying, NPF judges said in awarding the $10,000 prize. The series showed that while federal law requires mental health to be covered at the same level as physical health, insurers often fail to live up to that standard – with little oversight.

Seattle Times mental health reporter Hannah Furfaro investigated patterns of insurance denials to reveal that some patients with eating disorders were essentially given the message that they would have to starve more to get doctor-recommended care.

Lauren Frohne and Jennifer Luxton created an animated video, which NPF judges praised for “allowing a teen’s voice to be heard” regarding her experience with insurance denials.

Judges also noted Seattle Times mental health reporter Michelle Baruchman’s strong conceptual approach to telling the story of “ghost therapists” and why it seems so hard to find a therapist who will take your insurance. Out of 400 therapists the Seattle Times contacted through insurance website lists, just 32 confirmed openings for new clients. At least one insurance company changed their website as a result of her reporting. Baruchman also captured the difficulties mental health professionals have in getting paid for their work.

The judges noted that while the stories focused on Washington, they illustrated an important issue that touches everyone across the country, praising the Seattle Times for a “superlative approach” that was “investigative as well as human” and included actionable information.

The National Press Foundation and The Luv u Project established the Carolyn C. Mattingly Award in memory of the Potomac, Maryland, philanthropist and activist after her tragic death in 2014. The award recognizes exemplary journalism that illuminates and advances the understanding of mental health issues and treatments.

We are grateful for the expertise of this year’s judges:

Last year, NPR’s Invisibilia podcast won for its episode “Therapy Ghostbusters” in which Foo reported on a therapist’s dedicated, culturally responsive approach to treating trauma in Santa Clara County’s Cambodian immigrant community.