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Napa State Hospital

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California's psychiatric hospitals can be highly dangerous places, both for patients and staff. Lost work days and overtime pay are huge. But reporters looking to track down reliable data on assaults face an uphill climb.
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If anyone knows how mental illness can land someone in the criminal justice system, it’s Dianna Branch, the mother of a severely mentally ill adult son. She says his illness — and the drug use he believes eases his symptoms — has caused him to start fights, total seven cars and vandalize property.

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Deputy David Frost, who oversees a California county jail’s two mental health wings, said it’s not uncommon for seriously ill inmates to wait there for months, even after a judge orders them transferred to a state hospital.

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As 2011 unfolds, I’d like to share some of my favorite health journalism – some but not all of it policy-related – from 2010. This is definitely not a best-of list, but rather journalism that can inspire and teach us.  Here are my first five picks, and below are my second five, in no particular order of importance. Do you have other recommendations for must-read health journalism from last year? Share it in the comments below.

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