NMPolitics.net has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to examine Southern New Mexico’s inadequate behavioral health system and explore solutions.
The grant was one of 14 the Fund awarded in November to journalists across the planet. The Fund’s intent, according to its website, is to aid reporting that will “expose significant ills in society, government malfeasance and cover-ups, and abuses of people whose voices are rarely heard.”
The money is important because NMPolitics.net operates on a tight budget that’s dependent on advertising and individual donations. The news organization operates as a small business, not a nonprofit, so winning grant funding from foundations is challenging.
“Digging into deeper stories while keeping up with the daily news cycle is challenging,” said Heath Haussamen, NMPolitics.net’s editor and publisher. “This grant will help us do both, and I’m grateful to the Fund for Investigative Journalism for its support.”
With its investigative project, NMPolitics.net will seek to illustrate the dangers when someone needing help with issues such as substance abuse, depression, or suicidal thoughts can’t obtain adequate treatment. State and local officials have struggled for years to address such needs in Southern New Mexico. For example, the area is still working to recover from the 2013 Medicaid funding freeze that hampered longtime area nonprofits that were providing behavioral health services.
As another example, a crisis triage center sits built in Las Cruces but unused. And while many officials and activists agree that the state needs to build a second public mental health hospital in Las Cruces, there’s no agreement on how to fund it.
In addition, city officials are looking into why commercial insurance companies’ provider reimbursement rates are lower in Southern New Mexico than in Northern New Mexico and exploring how that may contribute to a shortage of psychiatrists and other providers in the south.
NMPolitics.net will spend part of the coming year investigating the situation. It will co-publish its work with the Las Cruces Sun-News sometime in 2017.
The Fund for Investigative Journalism has awarded more than $1.5 million to freelance journalists, authors and small publications over three decades, according to its website. That has aided the publication of more than 700 articles and broadcasts and 50 books.