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2017-2-17

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CMH Community Hospice’s Open House Set for March 9th

South Hill—CMH Community Hospice, a service of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, will be hosting an “Open House” event on Thursday, March 9th from 11:00AM - 3:00PM at the Thomas W. Leggett Center located at 300 East Ferrell Street in South Hill. 

The public is welcome to visit the new Hospice office inside the Leggett Center, have questions answered and find out more about this unique community treasure.

Refreshments will be provided as well as information on Hospice care and services.  Come meet the staff and talk with Hospice volunteers.

This event is FREE and open to the public.  There is a lot more to Hospice care than you may think, so come find out why Hospice is preferred by patients and their families.

For more information call (434) 774-2457.

Legislators designate Suicide Prevention Week

By Haley Winn, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Joshua Alburger grew up in a large, supportive family in Goochland, Virginia, says his sister, Marcie Allen. “We were nurtured, loved, respected and made to feel safe.”

Their parents had five children of their own while raising an additional five, Allen said. She said that later in life, Alburger developed a mental illness and struggled with suicidal thoughts. In 2013, at age 32, he died by suicide, leaving behind a wife of 10 years and three children.

“Joshua’s death broke my heart,” said Allen, who now works to raise awareness about how to prevent suicide.

The General Assembly will be joining her in that effort. Legislators have passed resolutions to designate the week of Sept. 10 as National Suicide Prevention Week in Virginia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, taking more than 43,000 lives each year. The CDC estimates that more than 1 million Americans attempt suicide annually.

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Virginia, resulting in more than 1,100 deaths a year.

Two identical resolutions on the subject are moving through the General Assembly:

●     HJR 548, which was approved by the House last month and passed the Senate on Tuesday.

●     SJR 251, which was approved by the Senate on Feb. 3 and is awaiting approval in the House.

Del. Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church, was the only House member to vote against HJR 548. He did so because the House refused to incorporate his proposed amendments about the relationship between suicides and guns.

“Almost 50 percent of all successful suicide attempts involve a firearm, such attempts being successful more than 82 percent of the time, making suicide by firearm the most common and most lethal means nationwide,” one of Simon’s amendments stated.

The other amendment noted that “the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention endorses incorporating suicide prevention education as a basic tenet of firearm safety and responsible gun ownership.”

“I don’t think you can have an honest conversation about suicide prevention without acknowledging the dangers of improperly stored and secured firearms,” Simon said.

Although the House rejected Simon’s amendments, the House and Senate resolutions both recognize the stigma associated with mental illness. The stigma is “discouraging persons at risk for suicide from seeking life-saving help and further traumatizes survivors of suicide loss and people with lived experience of suicide.”

Del. Richard Bell, R-Augusta County, sponsored the House resolution at the request of a constituent who had a sibling commit suicide. Bell said he believes establishing a week each year to focus on the issue will help prevent suicide.

“Raised awareness will hopefully help provide some folks who might be at risk with a way to manage their suicidal thoughts and seek help,” Bell said. “I also hope it will raise general awareness across the commonwealth that this is a form of mental illness that is often untreated and undiagnosed.”

The resolutions aren’t the General Assembly’s only efforts to curb suicides. The House has unanimously passed HB 2258, which would order a study about Virginia’s suicide prevention efforts. On Thursday, the Senate Education and Health Committee unanimously voted in favor of the bill.

In addition, both chambers have passed and sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe HB 1777, which would require hospital psychiatric units to speak to a patient’s referring physician before denying services for the patient. However, HB 2042, which sought to make suicide prevention a part of continuing education for health care workers, died in committee.

When Joshua Alburger struggled with mental illness, his family did everything they could to help, his sister said.

“Some would say in order to have a heart for others, or at all, you have to have your heart broken – broken wide open,” Marcie Allen said. She said her brother’s death“allowed me to love beyond where I could before.”

Now, Allen makes a point of talking to others who may be at risk of suicide.

“I ask if that person is speaking with a therapist,” she said. “I tell that person the impact he or she has on me and my life. I let that person know he or she is not alone – he or she is loved and wanted. I listen when someone says he or she is struggling. I will let that person talk.”

Suicide prevention resources

If someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, support is available.

The American Foundation for Suicide Preventionhas resources online at https://afsp.org. The phone number for the foundation’s Virginia chapter is 646-632-5189.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifelineis 1-800-273-8255. Or text “HELLO” to 741-741.

KAINE, WARNER, BOOKER & BLUNT REINTRODUCE COMMISSION TO RECOGNIZE 400 YEARS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY

2019 marks 400 years since first documented arrival of Africans to America by way of Point Comfort, Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) reintroduced the bipartisan 400 Years of African American History Act – legislation that would establish a commission to plan programs and activities in 2019 across the country to recognize the arrival and influence of Africans in America. Kaine and Warner were the lead sponsors in the Senate when a version of this bill was introduced last Congress.

Similar commissions have been established to recognize English & Hispanic heritage, including the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia and the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, Florida. This commission would be charged with recognizing and highlighting the resilience and contribution of Africans and African Americans since 1619, as well as acknowledging the painful impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination have had on our nation’s history.

“I’ve been lucky to be a part of federal commissions that were established to study and celebrate English and Hispanic history, and there is no reason a similar one shouldn’t exist to celebrate the contributions of Africans and African Americans to our history,” said Kaine. “We need to share the stories that explain who we are as a nation.  This commission will help do that and hopefully further enrich our understanding of the journey and history of our country.”

“This commission will mark 400 years of rich African American history, including both the immeasurable contributions of African Americans to our diverse culture and their resilience in the face of injustice during slavery and in the decades of racial discrimination that have ensued,” said Warner. “It is my hope that it will serve as a testament to the lessons in racial diversity that we have learned as a country and bring to light those that we may still need to overcome.” 

“The story of our great nation cannot be fully told without the rich history of African Americans,” said Blunt. “I am proud to support the creation of a commission to celebrate 400 years of African American culture. America is a better nation when all our citizens learn more about our history.”

“African American history is American history; the black experience is the American experience. The commission established by this bill would shed light on the lives, events, atrocities, discoveries, and accomplishments that have shaped that experience and, in doing so, promote a deeper understanding of the beauty and fullness of our nation’s heritage” said Booker. “The commission will also be tasked with highlighting the ongoing struggle to fulfill the promise of liberty and equality on which this nation was founded—a struggle that began four hundred years ago, when the first slaves were brought to Point Comfort, VA.”

Virginia Representatives Bobby Scott and Don Beyer, along with G. K. Butterfield, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, led the introduction of similar legislation that passed the House of Representatives last Congress. The Senate version of the bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last year, but was not voted on by the full Senate before the end of the 114th Congress.

Over Democrats’ objections, Senate OKs ‘religious freedom’ bill

By Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Democratic officials and the American Civil Liberties Union blasted Republican senators after they passed a “religious freedom” bill that would protect people who refuse to marry same-gender couples.

HB 2025, sponsored by Del. Nicholas Freitas, R-Culpeper, cleared the Senate on Thursday on a party-line vote of 21-19. The bill protects organizations and their employees who refuse to participate in the “solemnization” of marriage based on a “sincerely held religious belief.”

Freitas said the legislation was a response to Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order that prohibits state contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

“This is simply about preventing the government from punishing a religious organization because it doesn’t fit with a current governor or anyone else’s interpretation of social standards,” Freitas said when introducing the bill in committee.

The bill would protect a religious organization from losing a state contract or its tax-exempt status because of the group’s beliefs regarding marriage. It also would protect individuals from losing state employment, grants or acceptance into a public university if they refuse to participate in the marriage of a same-sex couple.

Democrats, who unanimously voted against the measure, contended it would sanction discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam celebrated the third anniversary of a federal court ruling in the Bostic v. Rainey case legalizing same-sex marriage.

On Thursday, Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, criticized the Senate for approving HB 2025.

“We cannot go backwards. We need to continue to be open and welcoming to all, no matter who you are or who you love,” Northam said in a press release.

Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, urged her group’s supporters to oppose HB 2025 and SB 1324, an identical bill that passed the Senate last week and is now before the House Committee on General Laws.

“If these bills are signed into law, same-sex couples could be denied services at church-run facilities, hotels or resorts affiliated with religious organizations, or at hospitals owned by religious groups, even if the services are funded by taxpayers,” Gastanaga said.

Del. Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church, argued on the House floor that HB 2025 is unnecessary because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act already makes it illegal for public bodies to discriminate against faith-based organizations on the basis of their religious beliefs.

A similar bill was introduced last year and failed in part because of the argument articulated by Simon.

However, Republicans said they fear that McAuliffe’s executive order could lead to discrimination against faith-based organizations that object to same-sex marriage.

“We had the governor’s executive order, which I believe does just that, or at least creates a mechanism where that can be accomplished,” Freitas said.

Democrats expressed concerns over the bill’s potential economic consequences. North Carolina experienced economic losses after its government passed a similar law last year.

At the beginning of the legislative session, McAuliffe vowed to veto any bill he considered discriminatory. Northam said the governor would veto HB 2025.

At his news conference Tuesday, Northam vowed to protect gay and lesbian Virginians from discrimination.

“Just before the holidays, I completed a seven-city tour that ended in Salem, Virginia, where I was pleased to welcome the NCAA soccer tournament,” Northam said.“That championship was relocated from North Carolina after the state passed anti-LGBT legislation, as was the NBA All-Star game and major businesses. As long as I’m here, as long as Gov. McAuliffe and Attorney General (Mark) Herring are here, Virginia will be inclusive. We will not be like North Carolina.”

Carol Schall, one of the plaintiffs in the Bostic v. Rainey case, also spoke at the news conference. She discussed HB 1395, which would have repealed language in state law that bans same-sex marriage. Even though the language is no longer valid, the bill, sponsored by Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax County, died in a House committee.

“Names matter. Names like ‘mom’ and ‘wife’ make all the difference in the world,” Schall said. “In past years such as this year, Del. Sickles proposed to repeal outdated constitutional amendment encoding discrimination in our great Constitution.”

Sickles called for a full House vote on the issue. He also discussed HJ 538, his proposal to repeal a constitutional amendment adopted by voters adopted in 2006 that defines marriage as being between “one man and one woman.” Sickles’ resolution died in a House committee on an unrecorded vote.

Constitutional amendments require approval in two legislative sessions before they can be presented to voters on a November ballot.

“If this constitutional were passed and it passed again next winter, by the time it got to the voters in November of ’18, 1.2 million people in our state will have come of age,” Sickles said. “They want to speak to this. They do not want the people of the 2006 cultural and societal milieu to speak forever.”

CNS reporter Tyler Hammel contributed to this report.

Assembly passes bill to allow sale of 151-proof liquor

By Amy Lee, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The General Assembly has given final approval to a bill that would allow the sale of 151-proof liquor in Virginia – a choice available in almost all other states, but one some fear could increase binge drinking and other problems on college campuses.

“I am glad to see Virginia join the ranks of 48 other states that have legalized clear, 151-proof alcohol. The law banning the legislation is a law left over from the days of Prohibition,” said Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, who sponsored the bill.

Under HB 1842, state-controlled liquor stores will be able to sell neutral grain spirits up to 151 proof (75.5 percent alcohol), an increase from the previous limit of 101 proof (50.5 percent alcohol).

Knight sponsored similar legislation in 2016, but it was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who echoed the concerns of university officials about 151-proof liquor. “A prime market for these products is young people who are attracted to their high proof and low cost,” McAuliffe wrote in his veto message last spring.

A McAuliffe spokesman said the governor has not taken a stand on HB 1842.

This year’s bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 36-4 in the Senate on Tuesday. Last month, the House approved the measure, 83-14.

To assuage concerns from organizations such as the Virginia College Alcohol Leadership Council, Knight cooperated with Brian Moran, secretary of public safety and homeland security, to include a five-year sunset clause in HB 1842. The legality of 151-proof grain alcohol would expire on July 1, 2022, and lawmakers then would decide whether to renew the law.

In addition, under the bill, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control could choose not to sell 151-proof alcohol products near college campuses.

Some university officials have expressed concerns about highly potent liquor. University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan has likened it to a “date rape” drug because of the correlation between alcohol consumption and sexual assault.

A popular 151-proof liquor is Everclear, which also comes in a 190-proof variety. It is made by Luxco, a clear liquor producer based in St. Louis. Vectre Corp., a lobbying firm in Richmond, represents Luxco.

Vectre officials said 151-proof clear alcohols were used mostly for culinary purposes rather than for straight consumption. An Everclear study conducted in 2015 found that 64 percent of product purchases were made by consumers over age 31.

Virginia and Vermont are the only states that ban sales of 151-proof liquor. Despite such restrictions, Virginia residents could easily cross into neighboring states to purchase strong neutral-grain alcohols.

According to Knight, the motivation behind HB 1842 is economic. A House workgroup report showed ABC sold more than $13,000 in grain alcohol during the 2016 fiscal year to purchasers holding special permits for industrial, commercial, culinary or medical purposes.

“Now Virginians do not have to drive to other states, and give their tax money, to purchase this spirit,” Knight said. “This legislation will allow Virginians the same purchasing power as 48 other states, have the taxes come to the commonwealth, and provide restaurants with 151 (proof) for cooking purposes.”

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