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2019-1-10

Community Lenten Services

Luncheon will be served after each Wednesday Noon Service for a small donation.

March 27 - 12 Noon First Presbyterian Church Rev. Dr. Rick Hurst

April 3 12 - Noon Calvary Baptist Church Rev. Dr. Doretha Allen

April 10 - 12 Noon St. Richard’s Catholic Church Rev. Tom Durrance

April 18 - 7 pm Elnora Jarrell Worship Center Rev. Harry Zeiders

April 19 - 11 am Calvary Baptist Church (Radio Baptist) Various Pastors and Leaders Hour of Prayer

The offering: we have given two $500 scholarships to seniors in the past. We will contact these two students and if they are still at their schools with passing grades, we will give them another $500 each and any money above $1000.00 we be given to Thomas Family Boots On the Ground Outreach.

Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS)

Community Out-Reach Education

South Hill – Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) is all about improving patient outcomes and speeding up recovery following surgery.  Having an operation can be both physically and emotionally stressful.  After hip and knee replacement, the enhanced recovery program at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital helps to make sure patients receive the right education before surgery while getting them up and moving shortly after their operation so that they can retain their independence and recover more quickly.  What is ERAS?  How can ERAS help after surgery?

If you are seeking answers to questions like these you should attend January’s C.O.R.E. (Community Out-Reach Education) Program at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital to learn about ERAS.

This FREE program will be on Thursday, January 24th at 4:00 p.m. in the VCU Health CMH Education Center inside the C.A.R.E. Building located at 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill.

The speaker for the program with be Dr. Niraj Kalore.  Dr. Kalore is an Orthopedic Surgeon that specializes in joint replacement and preservation, arthroscopic and minimally invasive treatments of sports injuries and other problems involving hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow and wrist joints.  Dr. Kalore practices at CMH Orthopedic Services, located in the C.A.R.E Building at VCU Health CMH.

Reservations are not required for this program; however, they are recommended.  For more information or to register to attend, please call (434) 447-0917 or visitwww.vcu-cmh.org. All attendees with have a chance to win door prizes!

December 2018 SVCC Truck Driving Graduates

Southside Virginia Community College celebrated another successful class at the Pickett Park site in Blackstone on December 13, 2018.  They are (Front Row: L-R) Martin Ahrens (Midlothian), Warren Branch (Church Road), Gregory Brown (Cullen), Melvin Cabrera (Meherrin), Tim Reavis (Blackstone). (Back L-R)  Doug Kemerer (Instructor), Christopher Kennon (Farmville), James Baskerville (Lawrenceville), Reggie White (Instructor) and Duncan Quicke, Truck Driver Training School Coordinator.

Teachers Highlight School Funding as Priority for Legislators

Richmond teachers light up the Bellevue Overpass with their top priority for the 2019 General Assembly.

By Evie King, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — On highway overpasses on Interstates 95 and 64, more than a dozen teachers signaled to members of the Virginia General Assembly their top priority by holding up 14 foam boards with Christmas lights spelling out “fund our schools.”

Educators from Richmond Public Schools and a statewide coalition called Virginia Educators United displayed the signs Tuesday night ahead of the legislative session that started Wednesday.

“Legislators are coming into the city tonight to start session tomorrow, and we want to make sure they know, as they come in, what it is we care about,” said Sarah Pedersen, a history teacher at Binford Middle School in Richmond.

Pedersen said she and her husband, both public school teachers, truly love their work, but living on teacher salaries has put a lot of strain on the couple’s family planning.

Now raising their 1-year-old daughter and envisioning having more children, Pedersen said it’s hard to imagine how her family could grow with their current salaries.

“It breaks my heart to think that my daughter might end up being an only child because we cannot afford to have the family that we always dreamt we would,” she said.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, the average teacher salary in Virginia is $56,861, falling short of the national average by nearly $2,000. Starting pay for Richmond Public Schools teachers with a bachelor’s degree is about $45,000, according to the school division.

Holding the sign for an “o” in the word “school,” fellow RPS teacher Aaron Garber said he looks forward to working only one job instead of two to make ends meet. After a full day of teaching preschool at Linwood Holton Elementary, Garber said he often works construction and home repair jobs in the evenings or on the weekends.

“Which if I actually switched to full-time, I would make more money than I do as a teacher,” Garber said. “But I just love teaching. I love working with kids. It’s as simple as that.”

Gov. Ralph Northam’s 2019 budget proposal includes $268.7 million in new educational funding, $88 million of which would go toward a 5 percent teacher pay increase. Northam said the pay raise would help curb teacher turnover rates and improve retention. If approved, it would be the largest single-year pay increase in 15 years.

Keri Treadway, a teacher at William Fox Elementary in Richmond, said she is optimistic about Northam’s K-12 proposals but thinks there is room for further legislative action. “Vote yes, but find the rest,” Treadway said, smiling as she summed up the group’s energy with a pithy catchphrase.

With crumbling facilities, teacher vacancies and accreditation issues plaguing schools in Richmond and many other localities, Pedersen echoed the optimism for the governor’s proposals. But she said the issues were more expensive than what Northam’s proposal would cover.

“I don’t know how to give that soul transplant for a legislator who doesn’t understand that their constituents want a fully funded future for our kids,” Pedersen said. “But we are prepared to make that picture much brighter and much more clear in November. We will vote [lawmakers] out.”

Virginia Educators United plans to march to the Virginia Capitol on Jan. 28.

Virginia Black Caucus Unveils Legislative Priorities

By Daniel Berti, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday outlined a legislative agenda that addresses education, civil rights, voting rights and criminal justice reforms.

On the first day of the General Assembly’s 2019 session, the 21-member caucus declared its support for a number of policy proposals that the lawmakers said would improve the lives of underprivileged Virginians.

The group’s priorities include improvements to the state’s public school system. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said the caucus will join Gov. Ralph Northam in pushing for increased funding for education.

“We are committed to fighting anything that takes money out of the K-12 system, anything that undermines public education in Virginia,” McClellan said. “We will fight tooth and nail to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

McClellan also declared the caucus’ support for the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would guarantee equal rights on the basis of gender. Five resolutions have been introduced in the Senate and House of Delegates to have Virginia ratify the ERA.

The amendment has been ratified by 37 states, one short of the 38 required. However, the deadline to ratify the amendment has expired, and experts disagree over whether it still can be approved.

“You’ll hear a lot of arguments today about all the terrible things that will happen if we dare to deem women equal under the law,” McClellan said. “Well, the Virginia Constitution already does it; it’s time the U.S. Constitution does, too.”

2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the Virginia House of Delegates, originally known as the House of Burgesses. But caucus members noted that it has been only 35 years since the first African-American woman was elected to the House.

Yvonne Miller was elected as a state delegate in 1983 and a state senator in 1987, serving in that position until her death in 2012.

There are currently 11 African-American women in Virginia’s legislature.

The caucus has also put its weight behind changes to Virginia’s voting laws. Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, voiced support for a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore the civil rights of felons who have completed their sentences and made restitution.

“The only requirement for voting should be turning 18 years old, being a resident of the locality where you live, and to be a registered voter,” Locke said. “In a democracy, voting is not a privilege — it is a right of democracy. So we are certainly trying to, as a caucus, ensure that voters in this commonwealth exercise that right.”

Del. Jeffrey Bourne, D-Richmond, discussed efforts to reform the criminal justice system.

“What you will see from this caucus will be common-sense, progressive policy proposals that make sure everyone is treated equally, fairly under the law,” Bourne said.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax also made an appearance at the press conference. Fairfax highlighted the caucus’ 2018 achievements but added that there was still plenty of work to do.

“What we see in Washington and around this country are people who wish to divide us,” Fairfax said. “This caucus is focused on making sure that we move forward united to provide opportunity for everyone no matter the color of their skin, where they live, who they love.”

Legislators Outline Plans for Expanding Mental Health Services

By Saffeya Ahmed, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Legislators proposed recommendations Tuesday to expand Virginia’s mental health services — including “right-sizing” the state hospital system, altering law enforcement training procedures and providing correctional facilities access to health records.

A General Assembly subcommittee will push legislation requiring the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to “right-size” the state hospital system by ensuring the appropriate number, capacity and locations of state hospitals. The legislation seeks to improve the current state hospital model and increase access to hospital beds across Virginia.

As of 2017, Virginia had less than 1,500 hospital beds spread across nine state mental health hospitals, according to DBHDS. The hospitals also consistently operate at peak occupancy, which is nearly 15 percent above the 85 percent occupancy rate considered safe for both patients and staff, according to the same report. 

“Access remains an issue,” said Paula Margolis, senior health policy analyst for the Joint Commission on Health Care, a research group created by the General Assembly. “Temporary detention order process remains an issue, with how there’s not enough hospital beds for people. [The legislative panel is] restructuring the system so that people are better served.”

The Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the Commonwealth in the 21st Century focuses on the delivery of all mental health services — short-term, long-term and emergency — to all Virginians.

“There’s somewhat of a stigma built up around mental health that prevents people from getting care,” said Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, chairman of the subcommittee. “It’s important that mental health issues [are] given the same dignity as physical health issues.”

Deeds has a personal connection to the issue. In 2013, Deeds took his son, Austin “Gus” Deeds, to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, but the young man was  released because no psychiatric beds were available. Less than 24 hours later, Gus stabbed his father multiple times and then committed suicide. Deeds later said the system failed his son.

Last year, Deeds sponsored legislation that requires schools to teach about the importance of  mental health in ninth and 10th grades.

During the legislative session that begins Wednesday, the subcommittee will seek approval of legislation that updates training standards for law enforcement personnel to include mental health sensitivity and awareness.

From 2012-17, Virginia saw an 18 percent increase in the number of people with mental illnesses imprisoned in local jails, according to a 2017 report by the Virginia Compensation Board. The inclusion of sensitivity and awareness training is specifically focused on people experiencing behavioral health issues or substance abuse crises.

“We’ve got to build a system of care,” Deeds said, “so that people no matter where they are in Virginia have access to the services they need.”

The subcommittee also hopes to amend state law so that correctional facilities can obtain patient mental health records when needed without requiring consent.

Other legislative recommendations for 2019 include:

  • Expand “telehealth” — ways of providing health care via technology

  • Support the University of Virginia in developing a clinical fellowship in telepsychiatry

  • Ask the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to explore treatment options for people in mental health crisis who have complex medical needs

  • Fund a pilot program for a psychiatric emergency center  

Gov. Northam Backs Plan to Fund I-81 Improvements with Tolls

Gov. Northam, backed by a bipartisan group of legislators, introduces the I-81 Corridor Improvement Fund, a program that would use tolls to fund nearly $4 billion of estimated improvements to the interstate.

By Owen FitzGerald, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Flanked by a bipartisan group of state legislators, Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans Tuesday to move forward with legislation that would use tolls to fund improvements on Interstate 81.

I-81 spans 325 miles across western Virginia, connects six metro areas and links 30 institutions of higher education.

The program, known as the I-81 Corridor Improvement Fund, would be supported by tolls along the expanse of the interstate. Owners of cars and small trucks would be able to purchase an annual pass for a fixed yearly fee of $30.

“Interstate 81 is the economic engine of western Virginia, and it’s time we take decisive action to enhance the safety and improve the reliability of this key corridor,” Northam said.

Northam said I-81 has a “clear safety problem,” with an average of about 2,000 crashes annually, including 45 vehicular accidents that took more than four hours to clear.

The chief patrons of the legislation are Republican Sens. Mark Obenshain of Rockingham and Charles Carrico of Grayson. Three other legislators — all Republicans with districts intersected by I-81 — are also sponsoring the proposal: Sen. Emmett Hanger of Augusta, Sen. Jill Vogel of Fauquier, and Del. Richard Bell of Staunton.

A yearlong study by the Commonwealth Transportation Board concluded that the I-81 corridor needs $2.2 billion of improvements. The governor said these changes would prevent 450 crashes each year.

The improvements seek to enhance traffic safety and reliability along the interstate, where an estimated 11 million commercial trucks travel annually.

Other interstates currently have dedicated funding sources. Regional taxes and tolls are used to fund improvements to those roadways, the governor said.

The tolls implemented along the I-81 corridor, which are currently drafted at 17 cents per mile, would be among the lowest in the nation — the second cheapest east of the Mississippi River, according to Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine. The exact price of tolls along the interstate would be determined at a later date by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The governor, along with Obenshain and Del. Steve Landes, R-Augusta, stressed that the program is designed to remove the “undue burden” of citizens who live along the I-81 corridor.

“The hard-working citizens in the communities on the I-81 Corridor deserve a viable, long-term solution to the challenges of travel along this route,” Landes said. “A focus on key improvements and dedicated funding for the corridor will positively affect those who rely on it every day.”

Obenshain added, “We have a tremendous opportunity to address long-standing issues on the I-81 Corridor. I will continue to work with the Northam administration and with my colleagues in the General Assembly in hope that we can find bipartisan solutions to the critical reliability and safety issues in this region of the Commonwealth.”

Members of Virginia’s congressional delegation believe that I-81 needs an additional $2 billion in improvements beyond those proposed by state officials, Landes said. He said the additional improvements would require funding from the federal government.

“It’s an interstate system, not an ‘intra-state’ system,” Landes said.

The I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan can be found at www.va81corridor.org.

Air Board Approves Permit for Buckingham Compressor Station

Pipeline

There are 25 images in this slideshow

The State Air Pollution Control Board voted 4-0 Tuesday to approve a permit for a natural gas compressor station in a historic African-American community in Buckingham County – a decision that left environmentalists and residents of the Union Hill community in tears. (All photos by Maryum Elnasseh)

By Maryum Elnasseh, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — The State Air Pollution Control Board voted 4-0 Tuesday to approve a permit for a natural gas compressor station in a historic African-American community in Buckingham County — a decision that left environmentalists and residents of the Union Hill community in tears, with at least one protester hauled off in handcuffs.

The proposed Buckingham Compressor Station is a component of the $7 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline running through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

Since finding out about the proposed ACP in 2014, Buckingham residents — along with environmentalists across the state — have fiercely opposed the project. They said the pipeline would pose a threat to air and water quality and to people’s health.

However, state officials have said the project would be built and operated safely.

“The final draft permit has more stringent requirements than any similar compressor station anywhere in the United States,” said Richard Langford, who chairs the Air Control Board.

Langford’s comments drew several outcries from attendees — many of whom turned around with their backs to the Air Control Board in silent protest.

With a heavy Virginia State Police presence in the building, Langford was quick to ask officers to escort out of the room audience members who spoke up during the meeting. Attendees who resisted orders were forcibly removed.

Following comments by Langford, Air Control Board member William Ferguson said there is a proven need for the pipeline, which would be built by a consortium led by Richmond-based Dominion Energy. Supporters say the project is needed to provide a low-cost supply of energy for Virginia and neighboring states.

Critics dispute that. In March, attorneys with Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed litigation on behalf of the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Wild Virginia, challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s “failure to demonstrate that the pipeline is actually needed by the public.”

“The groups contend that the overwhelming evidence shows the true purpose of the ACP is to provide profits for the shareholders of the pipeline’s financial backers, Duke and Dominion, at the expense of those utilities’ ratepayers,” the Sierra Club stated in a press release.

In a 2016 report, the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates found that the “region’s existing natural gas infrastructure is more than sufficient to meet expected future peak demand.”

“Making money for Dominion is not your job,” a member of the audience said in response to Ferguson’s comments.

Opponents of the pipeline have voiced concerns regarding Dominion’s influence over Virginia’s politicians.

In November, Gov. Ralph Northam removed two of the Air Control Board’s seven members — Samuel Bleicher and Rebecca Rubin — after they raised questions about the compressor station’s “disproportionate impact” on Union Hill.

Both members’ terms had expired in June, but they had been allowed to remain on the board until they resigned or the governor removed them. There are over 200 other people whose terms also expired in June still serving on Virginia boards and commissions.

Shortly after being removed, Bleicher questioned on his Facebook page if Dominion was involved in the decision. “You decide for yourself,” Bleicher wrote.

Dominion donated about $100,000 to Northam’s gubernatorial campaign in 2017. Last week, Dominion co-hosted a fundraiser for Northam’s political action committee, “The Way Ahead.”

David Paylor, director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, accepted gifts from Dominion in 2013 — including a trip to the Masters golf tournament in Georgia. He was seated next to the four Air Control Board members while they voted Tuesday morning.

As the meeting adjourned, attendees burst into chants of “protect our children” and “shame, shame, shame.”

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