Idahoans, we want to hear your stories about our state's mental health care. Here's why.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune file illustration via MCT

Statesman reporter Audrey Dutton is one of five journalists nationwide selected to investigate significant American health care issues next year through fellowships from the Association of Health Care Journalists.

As a 2018 Reporting Fellow on Health Care Performance, Dutton plans to examine barriers to effective mental health treatment in rural Idaho, and how a lack of access to care leads to serious crises and deaths.

Dutton has been with the Statesman for almost seven years. She focuses on health care and consumer issues as part of the news organization’s watchdog team.

The project will tell the stories of Idahoans who have been caught in a flawed system — uncovering the systemic weaknesses that got Idaho to this point — and present ideas for fixing the flaws.

It will have a strong focus on rural Idaho, where it’s extremely hard to find psychiatrists and psychologists, and where law enforcement may be the first and only responders in a mental health crisis.

The idea for the project grew out of Dutton’s story on the death of Nigel Youngberg, a young man who had schizophrenia and lived in Gem County. After the story ran, families contacted the Statesman to share similar experiences of trying to get help for their loved ones.

If you have a story to share regarding the barriers to mental health treatment in Idaho, contact Dutton at adutton@idahostatesman.com or 208-377-6448.