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Methadone Exposé Wins Journalism Award

The Seattle Times' Dec. 2011 series exposed nearly 2,200 methadone overdoses in which the state was complicit.


Methadone overdoses in Seattle, 2003–2011.
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By Hunter R. Slaton


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The Seattle Times has won a prestigious Associated Press Media Editors (APME) award for its wide-ranging, heart-breaking—and, ultimately, public-policy affecting—three-part series about how the state of Washington had been directing Medicaid patients to “cheap and unpredictable” methadone, resulting in nearly 2,200 overdose deaths from 2003 to Dec. 2011, when the series was published. According to the award announcement, after the series hit the streets, “state Medicaid officials sent out an emergency advisory warning of the risk of methadone.” The release also noted that Washington officials told doctors not to prescribe the narcotic except as a last resort. “It opened eyes and prompted swift action,” said the APME judges. “This is public service journalism at its best.” The archived series, titled “Methadone and the Politics of Pain,” is available on the newspaper’s website, including illuminating charts, such as this one, which illustrates how methadone disproportionately impacted poor populations in the Seattle area.

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