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Governor Northam announces $485 million funding commitment to strengthen Virginia’s behavioral health system

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Governor Ralph Northam announced on July 28, 2021, that the Commonwealth will commit $485 million in federal and state funding to address pressing challenges in Virginia’s behavioral health system. The plan includes targeted investments to alleviate pressure on state mental health hospitals, strengthen community-based services, and increase support for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.

The Governor made the announcement at the Arlington County Community Services Board and was joined by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegates Mark Sickles, Patrick Hope, and Alfonso Lopez for a tour of the Crisis Intervention Center and a roundtable with behavioral health leaders. The announcement is part of “Investment Week,” during which the Governor and legislative leaders are highlighting proposals for allocating the $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding available to the Commonwealth in advance of the August 2nd special session.

“Every Virginian should have access to the behavioral health care and treatment they need, either in their home communities or in a state-operated facility,” said Governor Northam. “The pandemic has led to increases in depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and other mental health issues in Virginia and across the country, which has added to the strain on our behavioral health system and the valued people who work within it. This funding package is a down payment that will significantly increase support for our state hospitals, community-based providers, and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs so they can best help those who rely on their services.”

The Governor’s plan solidifies the Commonwealth’s ongoing commitment to increasing access to community-based services and ensuring the safety of staff and patients in Virginia’s 12 state hospitals and centers. Additional capital investments will support improvements to state facility infrastructure, including water treatment, ventilation, and sewer systems.


“COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on both the mental and physical health of Virginians,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “These investments will mean Virginians will receive the care they need in the communities where they live.”

The $485 million investment includes state funding as well as federal dollars from the ARP and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and is broadly focused on three areas—state mental hospitals, community-based services, and opioid and substance abuse treatment.

Virginia’s mental health hospitals have faced high census levels for a number of years and the pandemic has made the situation more challenging. The funding package has nearly $200 million for staffing at state behavioral health facilities and intellectual disability training centers. This includes $45 million to continue staff bonuses and an additional $154 million in the two-year budget Governor Northam will submit in December for salary adjustments.

“State hospitals are in desperate need of help,” said Senator Louise Lucas, Chair of the Senate Education and Health Committee. “This funding will mean that Virginians can access the quality care they need, when they need it, without placing a burden on our community services.”

“These measures outline a significant step towards ensuring state hospitals remain operational for the immediate and foreseeable future,” said Delegate Mark Sickles, Chair of the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee. “We have to take action now to address these critical issues.”

The funding proposal also includes $150 million to increase access to community-based crisis services and child and family support services, and provide dispatcher training for the Marcus Alert program, a new statewide mental health alert system designed to ensure behavioral health experts are involved in responding to individuals in crisis. An additional $5 million dollars will be dedicated to providing permanent supportive housing in Northern Virginia to assist with bed shortages.

“Over the past eight years, we have worked to restructure our mental health system and to better fund services, but we still have much to do to best help Virginians with mental health needs,” said Senator George Barker, member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Behavioral Health Commission. “The federal dollars will help meet needs now, and we will continue to build the best mental health system in the 2022 legislative session.”

“Today’s announcement is a down payment toward our long-term commitment to improving Virginia’s behavioral health system,” said Delegate Patrick Hope, Vice-Chair of the Behavioral Health Commission. “It is only through a sustainable investment in community-based care will we truly recognize the lasting benefit and I am committed to a fully-funded community safety net to meet all our behavioral health needs.”

“Expanding community capacity ensures patients are cared for in an appropriate setting,” said Delegate Rodney Willett, Chair of the Behavioral Health Subcommittee. “I am grateful for the partnership between the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services, the Administration, the General Assembly, and the private sector to ensure equitable behavioral health services across the state.”

The plan also allocates $103 million for opioid and substance abuse treatment services. In 2020, Virginia saw nearly 2,300 overdose deaths, a 41 percent increase from the previous year, and the 2021 number is projected to be even higher. This funding will support community-based prevention, peer counseling, and harm reduction services.

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Governor Northam announces Virginia’s unemployment rate drops for 15 straight months, to 4.0 percent in August

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On September 17, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.0 percent in August, 3.0 percentage points below the rate from one year ago.

The labor force increased by 5,550 to 4,247,321, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 7,678 to 168,515. The number of employed residents rose by 13,228 to 4,078,806. In August 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 2.2 percent. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 5.2 percent.

“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation,” said Governor Northam. “Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months. More people are working and businesses are continuing to flock to our Commonwealth—even with the ongoing threat of COVID-19. I’m proud of our roaring economic growth, and I look forward to seeing these trends continue.”

“This month’s declining unemployment rate is made possible through the hard work and determination of Virginia’s workers and employers, who are the true champions of economic recovery in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “While we have more work to do, we can all be proud of how far we’ve come.”


“The overall trend in the unemployment rate we see is very encouraging, as the number of jobs being added to payrolls across Virginia continues to increase,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The trends are clear—businesses are hiring and folks are getting back to work.”

In August, private sector employment increased by 1,500 jobs to 3,208,700, and employment in the public sector gained 9,000 jobs to 704,500. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 10,500 jobs in August. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 37,100 jobs or 12 percent. The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in professional and business services, up 20,600 jobs or 2.7 percent. Trade and transportation experienced the third-largest over-the-year job gain of 16,600 jobs or 2.6 percent.

For a greater statistical breakdown, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website.

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August shipping volumes soar: Port continues to invest in new assets

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NORFOLK, VA – The Port of Virginia® in August processed more than 307,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) making it the busiest August on record and the port’s second most productive month in its history.

The combination of modern terminals and an experienced operating team are combining for success and ongoing efficiency, said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority (VPA).

In addition, the advantage of the “Virginia model” – where the VPA is both the terminal owner and operator – is keeping the port agile and providing measurable results to ocean carriers and cargo owners that are facing congestion and delays elsewhere.

“We own the terminals and our operating company runs them and this is an important advantage because we are not beholden to multiple economic interests, especially when we need to be flexible in our operations to accommodate our customers and growing cargo volumes,” Edwards said. “The Hampton Roads Chassis Pool [HRCPII] is a great example of the advantages of being an owner-operator. We own and operate HRCPII and as a result, we can make decisions and take quick action to ensure we have an ample supply of chassis.”


The VPA has four deep-water, multi-purpose cargo terminals and two inland terminals that are run by the VPA’s private operating company, Virginia International Terminals, LLC. In addition, the VPA owns and operates HRCPII.

“Though this is a very large, diverse port complex, all of the operational decisions are made under one roof by our Chief Operations Officer, Kevin Price,” Edwards said.

“Every day the parts are communicating, working in unison, analyzing need and providing real value to our customers, cargo owners and shippers. The ability to act quickly and provide service and solutions – long- or short-term — is the advantage of The Port of Virginia.”

August’s TEU volume was up 59,675 TEUs (+24%) vs. the same month last year and up 48,202 units (+18.6%) when compared with Aug. 2018, previously the best August on record.

  • To see a one-minute-45-second video of the port’s operational metrics on productivity at the berth, rail ramp and truck gates, click here.

“Our August volume would have been even stronger but there were some disruptions in the vessel schedule that are pushing some ship calls into September,” Edwards said. “We are nearing the height of peak season and do not anticipate a let-up before year’s end. Knowing that, we are focusing on remaining agile and fluid in our operations and continuing to invest in new assets that will increase our efficiency.”

In late August, the port ordered 18 Kalmar Hybrid Shuttle Carriers; the units are set for delivery next June to Norfolk International Terminals [15] and Virginia International Gateway [3]. In addition, 100 Thermo King gensets were delivered to HRCPII. These units mount directly on the chassis and 80 of the matching chassis are scheduled for delivery to HRCPII in October.

August Cargo Snapshot (2021 vs. 2020)

  • Total TEUs – 307,023 up 24.1%
  • Loaded Export TEUs – 85,256 up 13.2%
  • Loaded Import TEUs – 144,226, up 19.3%
  • Total Containers – 172,094, up 26.4%
  • Virginia Inland Port Containers – 2,794, down 3.2%
  • Total Rail Containers – 57,839 up 32.9%
  • Total Truck Containers – 106,458 up 23%
  • Total Barge Containers – 7,797 up 28.3%

(The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and, through its private operating subsidiary Virginia International Terminals, LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities: Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal. A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create more than 400,000 jobs, generates $92 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis and is a significant contributing factor in Virginia being ranked “Best State for Business” in 2019, 2020 and 2021 by CNBC.)

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Herring files amicus brief supporting the DOJ’s challenge to Texas’ unconstitutional law banning abortions after six weeks

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RICHMOND (September 15, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) challenge to Texas’ new unconstitutional six-week ban on abortions. Attorney General Herring’s brief specifically supports DOJ’s motion for a preliminary injunction of the law, that went into effect earlier this month.

Last week, Attorney General Herring led a coalition of 21 attorneys general in filing a similar amicus brief in Planned Parenthood South Atlantic v. Wilson, arguing that South Carolina’s six-week abortion ban harms women’s healthcare and a lower court’s ruling blocking the law should be upheld.

“The Texas abortion ban is not only unconstitutional, it’s just plain wrong. This law was explicitly written to try and circumvent any kind of judicial review, but my colleagues and I will not let that happen – S.B. 8 will see its day in court,” said Attorney General Herring. “A woman’s constitutional right to choose what she does with her own body is under attack across this country. As long as I am attorney general, I will do everything in my power to fight back against this alarming wave of abortion restrictions and protect a person’s constitutional right to an abortion.”

Attorney General Herring’s brief, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, argues that by banning all pre-viability abortions within Texas’ borders, the law, Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8), violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent affirming the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before viability. The brief further contends that the Texas legislature sought to circumvent prior Supreme Court rulings and prevent judicial review of the law by delegating enforcement authority to private individuals instead of the government and, as such, S.B. 8 is an “unprecedented attack on our constitutional order” and the rule of law.



Attorney General Herring and his colleagues contend that the clear purpose of S.B. 8’s private enforcement scheme is to produce an “across-the-board ban on constitutionally protected activity,” and that the private enforcement mechanism does not shield Texas’ unconstitutional law from judicial review. The brief describes how Texas created a structure within its state court system that requires courts to provide monetary and injunctive relief to claimants who bring cases against doctors who provide abortions and those who “aid and abet” such constitutionally protected care. Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the federal district court should not allow Texas to render the constitutionally protected rights recognized in Roe v. Wade legally void through the law’s transparent scheme.

Attorney General Herring’s brief describes how the law is already significantly impacting abortion provider clinics in Texas and beyond, including in amici states. Clinics in nearby states are already reporting a rise in calls from Texas patients seeking abortions, and one day after the law went into effect, all abortion clinics in New Mexico were reportedly booked for weeks. This rise in abortion caseloads in other states from Texas patients and the increase in needed travel for patients could result in many people – especially low-income individuals – being unable to receive the care they need. The law also threatens the many people who help patients in Texas obtain access to abortion by creating more than $10,000 potential liability for anyone who so much as gives a patient a ride to an abortion provider or otherwise “aids or abets” an abortion. The amici state, the brief explains, are committed to shielding their residents and clinicians from these harms when they help a patient in Texas obtain constitutionally protected care.

Finally, Attorney General Herring and the coalition argue that it is essential for the federal district court to grant a preliminary injunction of the law to stop the irreparable harm that S.B. 8 is inflicting on people in Texas and across the country, including the amici states. Forcing a patient to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, the brief argues, will lead to negative health and socioeconomic consequences, including placing people who are forced to carry a pregnancy to term at greater risk of life-threatening illnesses and harming their ability to maintain full-time employment.

Attorney General Herring has been a strong advocate for women’s healthcare and reproductive rights in Virginia. Last week, Attorney General Herring led a coalition of 21 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in Planned Parenthood South Atlantic v. Wilson, arguing that South Carolina’s six-week abortion ban harms women’s healthcare and a lower court’s ruling blocking the law should be upheld. He has stood against attacks on women’s reproductive freedom and has fought in court to defend women’s access to comprehensive healthcare services, including abortion and birth control. He issued an official advisory opinion that helped protect women’s health clinics from expensive and medically unnecessary retrofits that would have closed many Virginia clinics that offer abortion services. Attorney General Herring successfully fought alongside his colleagues in the Whole Women’s Health case to strike down Texas’s onerous, medically unnecessary regulations, and he has fought for women’s reproductive justice around the country, working with colleagues to oppose medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion in Ohio and Alabama. Additionally, he continuously fought against the Trump Administration’s attacks on women’s access to the full range of reproductive health care services and contraception options.

Joining Attorney General Herring in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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Governor Northam and the First Lady Announce 2021 Women in Innovation Conference

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Governor Ralph Northam announced on September 15, 2021, the Commonwealth’s second annual Women in Innovation conference will be held on September 22. It is presented by the Secretary of Administration in collaboration with the Virginia Information Technology Agency Innovation Program. This year’s conference is an opportunity to uplift women innovators and celebrate the groundbreaking women who paved the way.

“Virginia is a state that celebrates diversity,” said Governor Northam. “I am proud that our administration has more women in executive leadership roles than any previous Governor’s office. We need more women in leadership in our government and the private sector, and this is an opportunity for groundbreaking women leaders to speak about their experiences, and inspire the next generation.”

The conference is an opportunity for women across the Commonwealth, and nation, to come together, share their experiences, and influence the next generation of women leaders. This year’s event will include discussions from women who have excelled in their field, ranging from leaders in broadcast journalism to athletes who accomplished extraordinary feats.

“As a daughter, mother, First Lady, and educator, developing the talent of the next generation’s leaders is vital to Virginia’s success,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “I’m excited to share my story, and I hope that it can inspire everyone participating in the Women in Innovation conference.”


“Being a leader and the Secretary of Administration, it is my privilege to be a mentor to my coworkers and employees,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “The Women in Innovation conference is a chance for leaders in their respective fields to display their accomplishments and participate in future collaboration.”

This year’s Women in Innovation conference is a free, virtual event for anyone who would like to attend. Visit the website to register. The conference is on September 22 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST. The Women in Innovation conference is a production of the Virginia Information Technologies Agency Innovation Program, led by Chief Information Officer Nelson Moe. The Women in Innovation planning team is thankful for your support of such an impactful event. For more information, email vip@vita.virginia.gov.

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Governor Northam encourages Virginians to celebrate Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today proclaimed September 15 to October 15 as Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month.

“As we mark 53 years of commemorating National Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month, Pam and I encourage all Virginians to join us in celebrating the important history and enduring contributions of the Hispanic and Latino community throughout Virginia and our country. They enrich our communities by sharing their vibrant culture and heritage.

“Throughout this month, we honor and celebrate the hard work and dedication of our Hispanic and Latino men and women who have contributed greatly to the success of our Commonwealth. Hispanic and Latino Virginians continue to make great strides in public office and civil rights issues, supporting the fight for justice and equality for all, and successfully advocating for the historic passage of language access and of protections for all immigrants regardless of citizenship status.

“We acknowledge their deep-rooted history and foundation in our country and in our Commonwealth. We highlight their leadership in business and education, and their service in the fight against COVID-19 as healthcare and frontline workers. We recognize the dedication of our public servants as teachers and government employees. We commend the service of Hispanic and Latino men and women in the military protecting our democracy and freedom.


“The stories of Hispanic and Latino people are woven into the fabric of our communities. I invite all Virginians to participate in virtual and other safe celebrations of Hispanic and Latino heritage taking place in communities around the Commonwealth. Hispanic and Latino history is Virginia’s history.”

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Task Force on culturally inclusive school meals and calendars shares report with Governor Northam

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On September 9, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam received the final report of the Task Force on Culturally Inclusive School Meals and Calendars after sharing a meal with task force members, educators, and students at Beville Middle School. The full report is available here.

Recommendations include:

• Helping schools understand the religious and cultural needs of their students, assess their cultural inclusivity practices, and identify opportunities for growth;

• Creating culturally inclusive food pantries in partnership with local and faith-based organizations; and


• Recognizing schools that implement innovative and inclusive school meal and calendar practices

“When schools acknowledge and celebrate diverse cultures, customs, and cuisines, it strengthens the sense of belonging in school communities,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “I am pleased with the task force’s work to identify ways to support healthy, compassionate learning environments for students.”

The task force was charged with identifying best practices equipping schools to adopt culturally and religiously inclusive calendars and serve meals that accommodate more dietary restrictions.

The task force recommends that schools seek public input, to ensure the religions and cultures of students are represented on academic calendars. Under these recommendations, schools will not require the recognition of all significant dates on the calendar, nor eliminate holidays currently recognized, but will encourage schools and institutions of higher education to provide opportunities for students to celebrate the cultural and religious days that are significant to their tradition.

“School divisions and higher education institutions have the opportunity to be more inclusive in the meals they serve and holidays they recognize to honor the diversity of Virginia’s students and educators,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “The task force has outlined recommendations to promote expanded meal offerings and recognize religious and cultural holidays that bear significant importance to many students in our classrooms, even if they may not currently be acknowledged on school calendars.”

Members of the task force included:

• Farah Ahmad of Gainesville, Community Service, Interfaith, and Government Relations Assistant, McLean Islamic Center
• Sandra C. Curwood of Richmond City, State Director, Office of School Nutrition Programs, Virginia Department of Education
• Megan Day of Catlett, Student and Virginia Future Farmers of America State President
• Hurunnessa Fariad of Sterling, Head of Outreach, The All Dulles Muslim Society (ADAMS Center)
• Lindsey Fox of Blacksburg, Interim District Director, VA PTA’s Parkway District
• Nina Ha of Blacksburg, Director, Asian Cultural Engagement Center at Virginia Tech
• Heidi Hertz of Richmond City, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
• Qiu Jin of Virginia Beach, Director of the Institute of Asian Studies and Associate Professor of History, Old Dominion University
• Monica Manns of Richmond City, Chief Equity, Diversity Officer, Henrico County Public Schools
• Karishma Merchant of Alexandria, Senior Education and Workforce Policy Advisor, Office of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine
• Sarah Moran of King George, Registered Dietitian, The Dr. Yum Project
• Vijay Ramnarain of Chesterfield, Director of Support Services, Department of Education
• Adam Russo of Manassas, Director of the Office of School Food and Nutrition Services, Prince William County Public Schools
• Lyons Sanchezconcha of Richmond City, Educator, Richmond Public Schools
• Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky of Silver Spring, Maryland, Director of Intergroup Relations and Rabbi in Residence, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
• Beth Teigen of Powhatan, Chief of Staff to the Superintendent, Henrico County Public Schools
• Jonathan C. Zur of Richmond City, President and CEO, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities

“All students, educators, and families should feel a sense of belonging in their schools and institutions of higher education,” said task force member Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky. “Religious and ethnic minorities often feel isolated when choosing how to observe a holiday that falls on a school day, especially if the school does not acknowledge the observances important to their traditions. By proactively and intentionally creating an inclusive academic calendar, PK-12 schools and higher education institutions can foster belonging and equity for all students, and allow students to more fully lean into their religious and cultural identities.”

Later this fall, the task force will present their recommendations to the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet and will share their recommendations with superintendents, school nutrition directors, higher education representatives, school board members, and other relevant stakeholders.

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Come enjoy the challenging routes at Sky Meadows State Park and Valley View Farm, home of the Gnarled Orchard. These courses are knotty, knot nice at the farm as they are a mix of cross[...]
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WARREN COALITION OFFERS FREE TRAUMA-INFORMED TRAINING IN SEPTEMBER Have you ever felt alone? Do you wonder why you react the way you do? Do you work with children? If you answered yes to any of[...]
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4:00 pm Oktoberfest: Family Fun Day @ Wakefield Country Day School
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