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Style Writer Honored for Shedding Light on Crisis

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The Virginia Trial Lawyers Association has named Style contributing writer Amy Biegelsen as recipient of the group's Excellence in Journalism Award.

The award is given annually to a Virginia journalist "for exemplary work in raising public awareness of an issue relating to our civil or criminal justice system and its effect on Virginians."

Biegelsen won with her Aug. 9 cover story, "The Last Resort," which detailed the daunting decisions some parents faced when they couldn't afford residential mental-health services for their children. Because of a complex legal situation, the parents were relinquishing custody of their children to the state in order to receive care.

Since the story was published, the association noted, the attorney general issued an advisory opinion stating that forcing parents who are not negligent or abusive to give up their children for state-funded care infringes on their constitutional rights. Gov. Tim Kaine has also moved to seek funding for programs to help troubled youths in their homes before residential care is necessary.

"Thanks to her work, Virginians were made aware of this horrible situation," the association's Carolyn Lavecchia of Williamson & Lavecchia said in a release. "I cannot imagine the anguish of parents having to give up their child to the care of the state so they can receive mental health services their child so desperately needs."

"The Last Resort" is available online at www.styleweekly.com.

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