Mississippi Today reporter Isabelle Taft was honored by Families as Allies Monday for her in-depth reporting on Mississippi’s mental health system.

Isabelle Taft is a reporter and member of the Community Health Team at Mississippi Today, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.

Families as Allies is a statewide nonprofit that advocates for children with behavioral health challenges and their families. Mississippi Today attended a ceremony for honorees who exemplified one of the organization’s core values: valuing every child and family, excellence, partnership and accountability. Taft was awarded the Tessie Schweitzer Award for Accountability for her reporting on mental health.

“We especially appreciate her commitment to clearly explaining developments and processes that can be confusing and conveying the real-world struggles of people with mental illness and their families,” Families as Allies said in a press release.

In the last year, Taft dove into complicated stories about Mississippi’s mental health system. She detailed how individuals and families with mental health issues were asking lawmakers to ensure they get input on how federal funds are spent. She closely covered the state’s ongoing mental health lawsuit. She shared difficult experiences of a Hattiesburg family who struggled with the state’s civil commitment process.

“Reporting on mental health in Mississippi can be challenging because it involves complicated systems that don’t always seem to work together, with high stakes and serious consequences for real people seeking help,” said Taft. “Families As Allies helps Mississippians navigate those systems, and their staff have also helped me develop an understanding of the state’s mental health services and challenges. I’m grateful to them for this recognition and to everyone who has shared their time and insights with me as I reported on mental health over the last year.”

Other honorees included Dr. Michael Hogan, Imari McDonald, and Rep. Kevin Felcher.

“Mississippi is lucky to have Isabelle reporting on its mental health institutions,” said Kate Royals, Mississippi Today’s community health editor. “She is a fair and thorough reporter, and people here deserve to get contextual and truthful information about what’s going on in our state’s mental health system, which has been the subject of a federal lawsuit for the past six years.”

Taft joined Mississippi Today last year as a member of the community health team covering abortion, maternal and infant health, mental health and the operations of the state Division of Medicaid.

This month, she and Mississippi Today were selected as a member of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, and Taft will spend the next year in collaboration with the award-winning, nonprofit investigative newsroom on a special project.

Read Taft’s reporting here.

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