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2018-5-1

Southside Virginia Community College wants you!!  There is still time to register for classes and  apply for Financial Aid for the upcoming semester starting August 20.  Come by to see us...  Go to SVCC's Christanna Campus in Alberta or the John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville or a location  in Emporia, Blackstone, Chase City, South Boston,  or South HIll for individual help or visit SVCC online at Southside.edu.  Now is the time, SVCC is the place!!!!!

Keeping Athletes in the Game is A Cool Job for this SVCC Alum

Lannie Hales’ job is cool because she gets paid to attend sporting events.  As the athletic trainer for East Carolina University’s Cross Country/Track and Field team, she attends events in the fall, winter and spring to keep her athletes healthy throughout their seasons.  Athletic trainers are highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.  Athletic trainers are licensed as health care professionals in about 48 of the 50 states in the USA.

Not surprisingly, Hales got her higher education start at Southside Virginia Community College.  Since her mom (Christie Hales) has worked full time for the college since before Lannie’s birth, it was just a natural pathway to follow.

Her first classes at SVCC began as a ninth grader at Brunswick High School through the Dual Enrollment Program.  As a junior, she was accepted into the Governor’s School of Southside Virginia and attended morning classes at the Christanna Campus in Alberta for two years. 

In May of 2012, Hales received her Associate’s degree from SVCC a month before her high school graduation.

For the next move in her career path, she registered at James Madison University, a school she chose because she could major in Athletic Training.    With plenty of credits to transfer, she began at JMU as a sophomore and started taking the pre-requisite classes necessary for acceptance into the prestigious program. 

Hales was overjoyed to learn she had been chosen for the program that only accepts 18 students each year.  For the next two years, Hales studied the necessary classes, observed athletic trainers in the field for over 1000 hours and assisted in the health care and rehabilitation of athletes at Eastern Mennonite University and JMU. 

One of the greatest opportunities was working with JMU Softball in 2014, highlighted by being in the dugout during the Colonial Athletic Association Championship game and travelling with the team to the University of Kentucky at Lexington for the NCAA regionals.

While a senior at JMU, Hales researched and applied to programs offering Graduate Assistantships in athletic training.  She landed a full scholarship to North Carolina State University where she practiced clinically as an athletic trainer and went to school for the next two years.  As a member of the Wolfpack’s Sports Medicine team, she was assigned to the Cross Country/Track and Field team consisting of about 80 athletes.    This was an excellent chance to hone her skills, gain valuable knowledge in the field and continue her lifelong passion and involvement with sports and healthcare. 

She graduated from NC State with a Masters in Adult and Community College Education (with a specialization in Health Professions Education) in May of 2017 and searched for a full-time job as the next step in her journey.  In July, she happily accepted a position as assistant athletic trainer at East Carolina University.

Hales said, “I am very fortunate to have had the career opportunities I’ve had so far as a young professional in athletic training. When I look back on the reasons why I have been so fortunate, my education always comes to mind first. Being an athletic trainer is the perfect job for me; I get to combine my love for sports with my passion for quality health care for others. Getting my degree at SVCC really served as the kickstart for my athletic training career and I couldn’t be more grateful. “

Lannie is the daughter of Gil and Christie Hales of Lawrenceville and the granddaughter of Annie Ruth Kirk Clarke of Lawrenceville.

Jails Struggle to Help Mentally Ill Inmates

 

By Yasmine Jumaa and Irena Schunn, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Arrested for taking $5 in snacks from a convenience store, Jamycheal Mitchell was placed in a cell in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth. Authorities planned to send Mitchell, who suffered from schizophrenia, to a mental hospital. But that never happened.

Over the next four months, Mitchell withered away, losing more than 40 pounds. He died in his cell on Aug. 19, 2015.

“I had to ask again: ‘You sure this is my cousin?’ ” Jenobia Meads told reporters after seeing Mitchell’s body at the funeral home. “It looked like he was 67 years old.”

Mitchell’s death underscored the prevalence of people with mental illnesses in Virginia’s jails. More than one in six inmates is mentally ill, according to a 2017 study by state officials. Despite years of discussion and attempts at action, lasting reforms have proved difficult to achieve.

“As a mental health reformer, I’ve told people for a long time it’s like eating an elephant,” said Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath. “You take a bite and you feel full, but then you look at what’s ahead of you, the work ahead of you, and you realize that you haven’t really done much.”

A senator motivated by tragedy

In 2013, Deeds was stabbed multiple times at his home in Bath County by his 24-year-old son, Gus, who then committed suicide. Gus Deeds had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but mental health care system officials released him after they could not find an open bed in the state psychiatric system during the six-hour window allotted by law at the time.

The tragedy motivated Deeds, a member of the state Senate for 17 years, to become an advocate for mental health reform. He heads the Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the 21st Century.

The subcommittee expects to issue a report on its findings by the end of 2019. In the meantime, members of the panel have endorsed several budgetary and legislative proposals on such issues as alternatives to incarceration, crisis and emergency services, and housing.

The work will continue under a new state mental health commissioner. Hughes Melton, chief deputy commissioner for the Virginia Department of Health, was recently named by Gov. Ralph Northam to head the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. He will succeed Jack Barber, an agency veteran who has been commissioner for three years.

“The joint subcommittee is at a critical point in our work, as we only have about a year and a half of life left,” Deeds said. “We cannot afford to lose one inch of ground or one moment of time.”

Deeds said he looks forward to working with Melton to achieve the subcommittee’s goals.

Virginia’s lack of psychiatric beds

The move will be closely watched in the state, which has struggled to improve mental health services. Among the challenges has been the loss of thousands of psychiatric beds since the 1960s, when mental health advocates pushed for community-based programs and the deinstitutionalization of patients.

Community-based treatment is cost-efficient in managing mental health problems and establishes a level of care that can address problems before they become emergencies. But psychiatric hospitals and other residential facilities are necessary in the event of a mental health crisis like the one experienced by Gus Deeds.

According to a 2017 survey by the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center, Virginia has about 1,500 psychiatric beds – not nearly enough to meet the needs of people with severe mental illnesses.

When left untreated, severe mental illness may result in behavior that can put the person in the custody of law enforcement – placing the burden of psychiatric treatment on correctional facilities.

“People with mental illness are sometimes caught up in situations where paranoia, or whatever drives them to do something that somebody may consider a criminal act, and the result is they wind up in jail,” Deeds said. “There’s probably a better way for us to respond to that.”

Individuals with psychiatric diseases like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are 10 times more likely to be in a jail or correctional facility than in a hospital bed, according to research by the Treatment Advocacy Center. About 4 percent of U.S. adults have a serious mental illness, while 20 percent of inmates are diagnosed with a severe mental disorder – leading some to characterize prisons and jails as America’s “new asylums.

The Hampton Roads Regional Jail, where Mitchell was held at the time of his death, has become an unofficial mental health institution for Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake. Nearly half of the jail’s 1,100 inmates are diagnosed as mentally ill, according to a study by the Virginia Department of Corrections and state Compensation Board.

The Compensation Board works with sheriffs and other constitutional officers. The General Assembly has directed the board to issue an annual report on the number of jail inmates with mental illness. The board’s 2017 report put the number at more than 7,450 – almost 18 percent of the statewide jail population.

Mitchell’s death prompted a criminal investigation by the Virginia State Police, an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into whether the facility violates the rights of prisoners and a $60 million federal lawsuit filed by Mitchell’s family. Both investigations and the lawsuit are ongoing.

The punitive approach of correctional facilities creates an environment ill-suited for the rehabilitation of mental illness, critics say. The Compensation Board reported that 1,335 jail inmates diagnosed with mental illnesses were placed in solitary confinement last year.

Another death, this one in Fairfax County

Jamycheal Mitchell wasn’t the only mentally ill person to die in a Virginia jail. Natasha McKenna, who also suffered from schizophrenia, died in the Fairfax County Jail in 2015. A lawsuit filed in 2016 against the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office alleges that insufficient training factored into McKenna’s death.

McKenna, 37, died after being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by correctional officers trying to move her to another cell. Attorney Harvey Volzer, who is representing McKenna’s mother, declined to comment on the case. However, when Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh investigated the case in 2015, he determined that no crime was committed and that no charges would be filed against the officers.

The Treatment Advocacy Center has found that individuals diagnosed with severe mental disorders are more likely than other offenders to end up back in jail.

“We need to make sure we have discharge plans, that we have a way for them to kind of parachute into the community and seek and receive treatment services,” Deeds said. “We need to be looking at the whole person and the way we can treat them.”

Addressing that need, the 2016 General Assembly awarded six regional and local jails $3.5 million to establish pilot programs that provide mental health services to inmates while incarcerated and after their release.

A ‘pretty ambitious’ list of solutions

In 2014, the General Assembly passed a bill proposed by Deeds that extended the time limit on emergency custody orders, established a registry of available psychiatric beds in public and private hospitals, and designated state hospitals to serve as facilities of last resort. The legislation sought to ensure that beds would be available for citizens, including inmates, who experience a mental health crisis.

Deeds has asked the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy at the University of Virginia to study alternative solutions for people having severe mental health issues.

Having options is crucial because the state hospital system is overcrowded, said Rhonda Thissen, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Virginia. “If we can find alternatives for people that are in the community, that are not in jail, it would make it easier for people in jail to get a bed in the state hospital.”

Deeds said possible solutions being examined by his subcommittee include:

§  Diverting less serious offenders to treatment facilities, instead of prisons and jails. “If you have a real diversion program, you reduce the number of people with serious mental illness that are in our jails and prisons,” the senator said.

§  Providing treatment services and programs to inmates to lower recidivism. “You’ve got to make sure that the jails and prisons, the jails in particular, have a real connection with mental health,” Deeds said.

§  Offering treatment options for inmates being discharged to ease their reentry into society.

“All of that is pretty ambitious,” Deeds said. “We need to be looking at the whole person and the way we can treat them.”

Recent Developments in Mental Health Reforms in Virginia’s Jails

§  2014: An online bed registry is launched to expedite the search for available psychiatric care.

§  2016: Gov. Terry McAuliffe requests nearly $32 million from the General Assembly to update and standardize mental health care in correctional facilities across the state.

§  2016-17: More jail officers receive crisis intervention training.

§  July 2017: A new law requires mental illness screening for people booked into jails.

§  2018: The General Assembly approves a bill granting correctional facilities the authority to treat individuals incapable of giving consent. That gives correctional staff the same authority as those employed by psychiatric institutions.

Pathways to Prevention: Measures to Curb Gun Violence

(Editor's Note: This is the final installment of an in-depth series by the Student Journalists of the VCU Capital News Service)

By Claire Comey and Sarah Danial, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Lori Haas’ daughter is pregnant with her second child. That might sound like an exciting but somewhat mundane life event for most adults, but for Haas, it means more. Eleven years ago, her daughter, Emily, sat in a French class at Virginia Tech when a gunman entered the room and killed 12 of her classmates and 16 other students.

So when Haas tells people Emily is pregnant, she is excited, but she always thinks of the parents who will never get to be grandparents because of gun violence.

“It’s visceral pain for those families, and they don’t get over it,” she said. “There’s no closure.”

After a mass shooting such as the Tech massacre, community leaders consider policy solutions and ask the “what if” questions about security problems and mental health awareness. But what can actually be changed to help prevent another mass shooting? Haas is pushing for answers.

In the wake of the April 16, 2007, shooting, Haas became friends with some of the victims’ parents. They still grieve.

“They cry every Christmas, they cry every birthday, they cry every anniversary, they cry every Mother’s Day,” Haas said.

That’s why Haas spends every day working for gun control legislation as the Virginia state director for the National Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

“Sometimes I just don’t understand how our lawmakers can put the ease of access to a firearm above somebody’s life, and that’s what they’re doing,” Haas said.

Haas advocates for national “extreme risk laws,” which allow families or law enforcement authorities to ask a court to remove someone’s access to guns if the person “poses an imminent danger” to themselves or others.

Haas is also a proponent of universal background checks on all firearm purchases.

“You can prohibit someone from purchasing or owning a gun, but if they can just go online or go to a gun show or go to the street corner and buy one, the prohibition doesn’t do you any good,” she said.

Regulation works in America, Haas said, so it would be common sense to regulate firearms more.

“The notion that we can’t regulate access to firearms is harming our friends, our families, our neighbors, our communities,” Haas said. “It’s deadly and there are deadly consequences, and I find it morally objectionable that people place more value on convenience than on someone’s life.”

Security: Be ALERRT

In the case of an attack, the most important thing is to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, said Pete Blair, the executive director of Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training at Texas State University in San Marcos, south of Austin. Being conscious and reactive is key.

“The first thing is to have situational awareness, and if something seems wrong, to start acting as if it is wrong as quickly as possible,” Blair said.

ALERRT is becoming a national standard for first-responder training for active attacks. It began as a collaboration between the San Marcos Police Department and the Houston County Sheriff’s Office in response to the Columbine Massacre of 1999. Now the training is the standard for all agents in the FBI, and many states have adopted it for all first responders.

Mike O’Berry, assistant chief of the Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department, said that having the same training is key in collaborating with other agencies responding to an attack on campus.

“We’re going to get lots of agencies that we don’t work with every day,” O’Berry said. “We’ve all been trained the same so we can seamlessly all get together in groups and all deal with the situation based on the same training.”

ALERRT trains not only first responders but also civilians on how to prepare for any kind of attack. The program teaches a three-pronged strategy – avoid, deny and defend:

  • Avoid means to simply get as far away as possible from an attacker.
  • If that is not possible the next step is to deny them access to your location. “Close and lock the door, barricade it and keep them from getting to you,” Blair said.
  • The final step and last resort is to defend yourself by any means necessary. “You have a legal right to do that, and if the choice is to do nothing or be murdered, we encourage people to try to protect themselves,” Blair said.

The ultimate way to stay safe, according to ALERRT and the VCU Police Department, is to report any suspicious activity to authorities. O’Berry said safety is everyone’s responsibility.

“Those are the things that we need people to call in,” O’Berry said. “And it’s the only way to keep VCU safe – everybody looking and observing the environment because the police can’t do it alone.”

Mental Health Treatment

After a mass shooting, many people say the shooter’s mental health triggered the violence.

That assumption not only reflects an incorrect causal relationship but also contributes to a harmful stigma, said psychologist Peter LeViness of the University of Richmond, who served as an expert witness for the defense after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

“I think people are quick to connect mental illness to the shooters,” LeViness said. “I don’t think it’s as common a link as people want to believe.”

There are only a few disorders that “actually increase the risk of violence,” and even then, the connection is not obvious, he said.

According to a 2016 American Psychiatric Association study, mass shootings by “people with serious mental illness” account for fewer than 1 percent of all gun-related homicides.

“I don’t think it’s causal,” LeViness said. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of people with the same disorder wouldn’t do that, and then when people say it was the depression, that just makes the stigma worse.”

More often, shooters have had a grievance or grudge they want to settle, or they had a childhood filled with violence, he said.

“They think, ‘I’ve been treated badly, and someone needs to pay back for that,’” LeViness said.

After a mass shooting, survivors can have lasting mental effects, said LeViness, who is also director of counseling and psychological services at Richmond and a threat assessment trainer in Virginia.

In the short term, survivors might exhibit a loss of concentration, appetite or sleep – possible signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Support from family and friends can help. At school, administrators can bring in grief counselors to help with returning to normalcy.

Even people miles from a mass shooting can be affected by the event.

Lissa Brown, a school psychologist for Henrico County, said the children she works with in Virginia are experiencing secondary trauma in the aftermath of the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“It’s just the veiled threat that something might happen to them,” Brown said. “These children are still traumatized.”

Many students and teachers told Brown that they don’t feel safe.

“We see a lot of hyperactivity, a lot of hyper-vigilance, because children are just concerned about what’s going to happen during their school day,” Brown said. “Sometimes they’re not able to focus because they’re always on guard or thinking about how they’d react.”

Brown emphasized the need for accurate threat and risk assessment in determining if a student could harm themselves or others.

“I feel that all children who are at risk for harming themselves or harming others need mental health care,” Brown said. “And if that was my child, he would need mental health care, and if he had killed my child, I would be so hurt, but that child was asking for help.”

LeViness supports what he sees as sensible gun control. Research shows that restricting access to guns can prevent suicide, he noted. But more than that, LeViness said people must be more interested in one another.

“The more we can connect with people and be socially engaged,” LeViness said. “Who is not connecting? Who is on the fringe?”

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