The Center for Investigative Reporting won its first George Foster Peabody Award today for its investigation into the VA’s pain pill habit.
The story premiered on “Reveal,” a new hourlong public radio program produced by CIR and PRX that showcases investigative reporting. It detailed how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs became the drug dealer of choice for many veterans addicted to prescription painkillers. A companion piece was broadcast on the PBS NewsHour.
The report used internal VA data to expose a 270 percent increase in the number of opiate prescriptions issued at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, a phenomenon that had contributed to a fatal overdose rate among VA patients that was nearly double the national average.
Reaction to the story was swift. Less than two weeks after the story aired on “Reveal,” the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs cited the coverage in calling a hearing “to examine VA’s skyrocketing prescription painkiller rate.” The hearing was held in spite of a government shutdown. During the proceedings, VA officials promised to present a plan to Congress designed to lower the number of opiate prescriptions.
At a follow-up hearing four months later, VA officials told Congress the number of veterans being prescribed narcotic painkillers had fallen by 20,000 since October and that the agency was in the process of expanding alternative therapies nationwide.
The project was reported by Aaron Glantz with contributions from data reporter Agustin Armendariz, news applications developers Aaron Williams and Michael Corey, radio producer Michael Montgomery, video producer Adithya Sambamurthy, senior documentary film and video editor Stephanie Mechura, engagement manager Cole Goins, senior producer Mia Zuckerkandel and editor Amy Pyle. Susanne Reber and Ben Adair are the executive producers for “Reveal.”
The George Foster Peabody Awards recognize exemplary work in broadcasting, cable television and online productions. CIR was one of 46 recipients of this year’s awards. For the first time, some of the winners were announced during a national television broadcast, on “CBS This Morning.”