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The New York News Publishers Association honored The Buffalo News on Wednesday with a slate of awards in its annual journalism competition.

The News, which competes with the state’s largest newspapers, won the award for investigative reporting for a series of articles about the role of police in the mental health system. The series, which began with an installment called “Today’s Mental Health Squad: The Police,” was written by reporter Matthew Spina, who found that nearly half of the people killed by upstate New York police over five years had a history of mental trouble.

The series also revealed that basic police academy training leaves officers ill-prepared to deal with severely mentally ill people they encounter and that officials staffing New York’s jails are poorly equipped to double as custodians for people with serious mental illnesses, as the current mental health system expects of them.

The Publishers Association gave News Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious its award for state government coverage. The judges honored him for a range of stories covering Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the State Legislature and state politics.

One article focused on the huge and unusual efforts Senate Republicans undertook to protect the incumbency of freshman State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo. Precious wrote in October 2012 that Grisanti, whose legislative district also takes in Grand Island and Niagara Falls, was crucial to Republican efforts to preserve the GOP majority in the Senate.

Deputy Editorial Page Editor Kevin Walter again won the award for editorial writing. Walter, a frequent winner in that category, was honored for an editorial about the troubled Buffalo public school system. In commenting on a consultant’s scathing report about the district’s administration and the Board of Education, Walter called it a road map for leaders and a golden opportunity for the board to redeem itself.

News designer Leah Samol won the award for page design/presentation for her concept to introduce an article called “A Big Family of Greek Restaurants.” Samol presented the roster of connected restaurants as plates on a large table.

News sports reporter Keith McShea was honored for having the best blog. McShea presents wide coverage of the region’s scholastic sports scene through “Prep Talk,” a blog found at BuffaloNews.com

The Buffalo News Sports Department won in the specialty publication category for its preview of the 2013-14 National Hockey League season. The section was published in September 2013.

email: citydesk@buffnews.com