State Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring visited the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren (RSW) Regional Jail on Friday, December 14, along with several local and state Republicans including Delegate Todd Gilbert, R-15th and county Supervisor and RSW Authority Board member Dan Murray. The occasion was the launching of a McShin Foundation substance-abuse rehab program at the jail.
The event was cited as a bipartisan effort to help fight a drug-abuse problem that knows no partisan boundaries as it sweeps across the nation blind to economic or social class, racial or ethnic heritage.
Event organizers were John Shinholser (McShin President), Christopher Ronquest (Virginia Recovery and Re-Entry Project Director), Kate Obenshain Keeler (McShin Advisory Council) and RSW Jail Superintendent Russ Gilkison, in collaboration with SAMHSA, Recovery Connection, and Grace Downtown.
The afternoon gathering of social and political luminaries from around Virginia celebrated the opening of an innovative, peer-to-peer based program designed to help facilitate the recovery journey for incarcerated individuals with Substance Use Disorders. RSW Superintendent Gilkison was lauded for bringing the program to the facility.
“This is a coming together – thank you so much for opening up this jail for this program,” Obenshain Keeler told Gilkison. In her opening remarks, Obenshain Keeler noted that she had once been part of the “lock them up and throw away the key” contingent regarding drug abuse until it struck close to home – in fact, in her home in the person of her oldest child. She called her experience an eye-opening “walk through the Gates of Hell” and dismissed political differences in approaching the drug problem as “ridiculous”.
Gilbert agreed. The Shenandoah County-based Republican House delegate referenced his legal experience on both sides of the prosecution and defense fence. He said particularly from his work as a defense attorney he felt that “99.8% of the people in the criminal justice system are simply struggling with issues” ranging from how they were brought up to how they learned to cope with problems on the streets.
Virginia Attorney General Herring called the mission to help Virginia citizens rehabilitate their lives “a very personal one” from his role at the top of the state legal apparatus – “This is something that can happen to any of us.”
Noting the large percentage of people present who had raised their hands when asked to acknowledge they were in long-term recovery from substance abuse, Herring said, “What gives me hope – YOU. I don’t see a room full of bad people.”
The attorney general noted his department’s intention of filing suit against one pharmaceutical company – Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of myriad opioid-based products including OxyContin – for misleading advertising about those products.
Online research indicates a 2006 government report concluded that while Purdue Pharma knew about “significant” abuse and addictive patterns of behavior by OxyContin users in the first years after the drug’s introduction in 1996, it concealed that information and continued to promote the drug as “less addictive”.
“Based on their findings after a four-year investigation, the prosecutors recommended that three top Purdue Pharma executives be indicted on felony charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States that could have sent the men to prison if convicted. But top Justice Department officials in the George W. Bush administration did not support the move, said four lawyers who took part in those discussions or were briefed about them. Instead the government settled the case in 2007,” a report summary stated.
I guess some are slow to learn the non-partisan lessons of drug abuse – and responsibility, even corporate, for pushing addictive drugs for profit.
The media spoke with Attorney General Herring prior to the official start of Friday’s program.
“Addiction has its roots in the medicine cabinet – so addiction can happen to any of us,” Herring said, echoing a theme that would be repeated often during the coming introductory program. “And so it is critical that we have a multi-faceted response, which we have, and a key piece of it is treatment and recovery. And I have come to know the recovery community well over the years and seen how peer-to-peer services like what McShin does is very often the key to successful recovery. And we’re going to work really hard to get information out through our education and prevention efforts about the dangers of opioids, how addictive these drugs are; but also a key part of the message is that it is possible to live a successful life through recovery.
“And a lot of people have had the courage to reach out for help, and you know it’s hard work but there are a lot of people who are willing to help. And that kind of support is really essential in order to help people recover. So, the message is twofold – not only do we want to let people know about the danger of these drugs, but also that there is hope for recovery.”
The Virginia Recovery and Re-Entry Project, facilitated by The McShin Fountain, is part of the Building Communities of Recovery (BCOR) funding opportunity from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Through this project, two new Substance Use Disorder Recovery Programs are being implemented in RSW Regional Jail and Riverside Regional Jail.
In addition, a re-entry component to the project will take place through The McShin Foundation in Richmond, VA, providing housing and recovery support services to individuals as they re-enter society. Through this project, the participating organizations hope to reduce the rate of recidivism and the negative consequences created by Substance Use Disorders by providing authentic peer-to-peer services and a multi-disciplinary approach to recovery.
The McShin Foundation was founded in 2004 and is Virginia’s leading non-profit, full-service Recovery Community Organization (RCO), committed to serving individuals and families in their fight against Substance Use Disorders.
Special acknowledgement was given to the team that would bring the program to RSW inmates and program co-sponsors from the Recovery Connection and Grace Downtown. One of those team members, known as “Cricket”, spoke of how “something clicked in me” when the type of message of hope he is now bringing to others, was first delivered to him in a time of need for rehabilitative guidance.
Cricket pointed to 23 volunteers bringing the program to RSW – “every one in long-term recovery” as both McShin President Shinholser and the event invocation Pastor Brad Hill of Grace of Downtown in Winchester both acknowledged they were. As one of the principals of the Winchester-based Recovery Connection Program told the crowd, “I celebrate another day clean so I can show up to give a message of hope to others.”
American Cancer Society announces new hotel partners in Winchester, providing complimentary rooms to cancer patients
If you’re a cancer patient, your treatment options may require you to travel a long distance from home. Since many cancer treatments require multiple outpatient visits, travel can be exhausting and arranging overnight lodging can be expensive. That’s why the American Cancer Society created the Hotel Partners Program, working with hotels across the country to provide complimentary rooms to cancer patients who need to travel for treatment.
The Society is pleased to announce three new hotels have joined the Hotel Partners Program:
- The George Washington A Wyndham Grand Hotel (103 E Piccadilly St, Winchester, VA 22601)
- La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham (1055 Millwood Pike, Winchester, VA 22602)
- Candlewood Suites (1135 Millwood Pike, and, US-50, Winchester, VA 22602)
They join Country Inn and Suites, by Carlson which has been part of the Hotel Partners Program for the past two years. These hotels offer accommodations for cancer patients who travel long distance from their homes in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, to be treated at Valley Health Cancer Center at Winchester Medical Center. Patients come from as far away as West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The American Cancer Society is very grateful to our new and existing hotel partners in Winchester who are making a tangible impact on the community. Going through cancer is hard enough, but when patients need to travel far for treatment, there are huge roadblocks that can make it even more difficult to get treatment. That’s where our Hotel Partners program steps in – our goal is to provide lodging for patients who need to travel long distance so they can focus on getting the life-saving treatments they need and to help alleviate their financial stress,” says Anna Somers, American Cancer Society mission delivery manager. “The Hotel Partners program is a great opportunity for local hotels to give back to the community by helping cancer patients traveling for treatment.”
In 2018, the American Cancer Society provided more than 35,000 individual cancer patients and their caregivers with more than 543,000 complimentary nights of free lodging either through its 32 ACS Hope Lodges nationwide or through the Hotel Partners Program, saving cancer patients an estimated $59 million in hotel costs. Nationwide, more than 8,500 patients were served through the Hotel Partners Program with more than 66,000 provided through participating hotels which saved patients more than $9.6 million.
To be eligible to receive lodging through the Hotel Partners Program, patients must travel long distance for a cancer-related medical appointment that requires lodging near their treatment center, have a permanent residence, and either be able to care for their personal needs while at the hotel or travel with a companion who can assist them.
The American Cancer Society is seeking additional hotel partners for the program. If you are interested in partnering to provide complimentary rooms for cancer patients in the Winchester area, please contact email@example.com.
For information about American Cancer Society programs and services, including lodging, please visit cancer.org or call 1-800-227-2345.
Traffic pattern changes, overnight ramp closure at Route 123/I-66 Interchange starting February 21st
Drivers from I-66 East will use the new ramp and traffic signal to reach Route 123 North
Drivers exiting from I-66 East to Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) North toward Oakton will use a new ramp and traffic signal beginning on or about Friday night, Feb. 21.
Traffic heading to Route 123 North will use the current exit from I-66 East to Route 123 South, then stay to the left to use two signal-controlled turn lanes to turn left onto northbound Route 123. Traffic on I-66 East heading to Route 123 South will stay to the right using the existing exit ramp.
Implementing the traffic shift will require lane closures and stoppages on Friday night, Feb. 21. A single lane on Route 123 North and South will be closed between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. The ramp from I-66 East to Route 123 will be closed between midnight and 5 a.m. Traffic will be detoured farther east to Route 243 (Nutley Street) North, stay to the right for I-66 West, then follow signs to Route 123 North or South.
The old loop ramp from I-66 East to Route 123 North will be demolished to allow construction of Express Lanes ramps and a shared-use path at the redesigned Route 123 Interchange as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project. Drivers should be alert for changing traffic patterns and the new traffic signal. Drivers are reminded to slow down and pay attention as construction-related detours and traffic pattern changes will continue through 2022 when the new Express Lanes open.
Learn more about the I-66 Outside the Beltway Project and sign up for project updates and lane closure alerts at Transform66.org.
Proposed WCPS budget funds pay raises, new buses, more instructors
Pay raises, additional instructors and specialists, as well as five new school buses, are part of the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2020-21 operating budget for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS).
The Warren County School Board this week presented the proposed budget to the Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS) during a joint February 18 meeting and reviewed it again during a School Board work session on February 19 following its regular meeting.
“Our goal this year is to focus on the areas which will have a positive impact on our students,” WCPS Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard told the supervisors on Tuesday evening. “So, anything you see that we are recommending for our budget next year will have a direct impact on students.”
Goals for the school year 2020-21 are to use roughly $2.85 million of those funds to fully implement salary scales for teachers, instructional assistants (IAs) and nurses, as well as a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment and step for all WCPS employees.
WCPS also would use $120,000 of the more than $2.95 million to buy five new school buses through a lease-to-own agreement and would allocate $150,000 to a fund for new textbooks, which would be purchased in a deal providing both online and hard-copy editions.
Another goal, Sheppard added, is for all Warren County schools to be accredited.
Toward that goal, WCPS wants to add 4.5 teaching positions — to include one half-time Patient Care Tech teacher for its Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, two English language teachers, and two special education instructional coaches — and would hire two instructional resource team specialists, one social worker, and four IAs, according to the proposed budget summary Sheppard provided to the supervisors.
The cost to cover the additional teachers and specialists would total almost $3.83 million, with $231,833 targeted to the social worker and IAs, who would work in a to-be-created Behavior
Support Program for the school district, said Sheppard, adding that $4,760 would be used to increase the CTE budget for the EMT and Trades Academy, which has seen increased enrollment.
The nearly $3.83 million proposed for the additional instructors and specialists exceeds the roughly $2.95 million in projected additional funds by $868,858, according to the proposed WCPS FY 2020-21 operating budget that Sheppard handed out during the School Board’s work session on Wednesday.
Overall, WCPS expects approximately $61.59 million in total projected revenue for the upcoming fiscal year based on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed budget. The total required expenditures for the current WCPS budget are just more than $58.63 million.
During the joint School Board and BOS meeting on Tuesday evening, Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley shared a variety of data, including WCPS budget increases during the last decade (see graph below), and how much funding WCPS has been allocated as part of Warren County’s total budget over the years.
For example, in the school year 2003-04, the local school appropriation from Warren County totaled just more than 25 percent of the County’s total budget. Comparatively, it was approximately 32 percent of the County’s total budget for the current school year, according to Stanley’s data.
Much of the increase, he said, has been to cover capital needs, such as construction and/or renovations to schools such as E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, and Warren County High School.
“We’ve made significant progress in the last 15 plus years on meeting capital needs,” Stanley told the supervisors, “and now we agree that the focus should shift to addressing the school system’s operational needs over the next five years until the need for the next elementary school arises.”
During the Warren County School Board’s February 19 work session, Sheppard gave members some good news and announced that health insurance rates came back a few days ago and they’ve been decreased by 5.9 percent.
“So, we have an excellent rate decrease,” she said. “If you remember two years ago, we had an increase of almost 20 percent and last year we had a decrease of around 3 percent.”
Sheppard said with the savings from the insurance rate decrease, WCPS, in turn, would like to decrease the employees’ portion of their health insurance. “When we know more information, we’ll be able to make some recommendations” about what to do with the savings, Sheppard told School Board members.
She also set an additional work session for March 4 that will follow the School Board’s regular meeting and a special meeting on March 11 to approve the WCPS final budget.
“The reason to do that,” said Sheppard, “is because we expect to get some additional information from the state about how much money we’re going to get from them.”
Robert Ballentine, WCPS Director of Finance, said there are three state competing budgets currently under consideration by legislators in Richmond.
The Virginia General Assembly is slated to adjourn on March 7, according to Ballentine, putting WCPS in “good shape” to know what to expect in its forthcoming budget so that the district can move forward.
“We’re almost in a state of hold right now,” Ballentine said. “We’ve talked about the [budget] priorities we’d like to do… but until we get a little better picture of our revenue from the state, it’s difficult for us to do anything more.”
Sheppard said Stanley agreed to accept the final WCPS FY 2020-21 budget on March 12. He said on Tuesday that he expects the supervisors to approve the final WCPS budget at their April 21 meeting.
The School Board members present on February 19 were James Wells, Ralph Rinaldi, Catherine Bower, and Kristen Pence. School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr. was absent for the regular meeting and work session, but he did attend the joint meeting on Tuesday with the BOS.
Lord Fairfax Community College staff members win national award
LFCC instructional technologist Gannon Nordberg and instructional designer Erin Mills recently received the 2019 Award for Outstanding Support for Faculty or Students from the Instructional Technology Council (ITC). The award was presented during the ITC’s 2020 Annual Conference – eLearning.
United States Navy Country Current plays concert February 21, 2020
The 44th Annual Military School Band and Choir Festival will be held at Randolph-Macon Academy on February 21-23, bringing with it several events that are open to the public. After a full day of clinics and band auditions, the students will enjoy a concert performed by the U.S. Navy Band Country Current in Boggs Chapel. This concert, which takes place at 7:30 pm, is free and open to the public.
The United States Navy Band Country Current is the Navy’s premier country-bluegrass ensemble. The group is nationally renowned for its versatility and “eye-popping” musicianship, performing a blend of modern country music and cutting-edge bluegrass. This seven-member ensemble employs musicians from diverse backgrounds with extensive high-profile recording and touring experience in the music scenes of Nashville, Tenn., New York, New Orleans and more. In the tradition of country music, each member is a skilled performer on multiple instruments. The band utilizes banjo, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, fiddle, electric bass, upright bass, dobro, pedal steel guitar and drum set.
Formed in 1973, the band has a rich legacy of notable alumni including Bill Emerson, Wayne Taylor, Jerry Gilmore, and Frank Sollivan. They have performed at the Grand Ole Opry, for Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and overseas in Stockholm, Nova Scotia, and Beijing. With a fun-filled and family-friendly stage show, Country Current has been delighting its fans for over 40 years with their musical virtuosity and humor.
A staple of the bluegrass scene, Country Current has shared the stage with music luminaries Rhonda Vincent, Dailey and Vincent, Mountain Heart, Little Roy Lewis, Third Time Out, The Lonesome River Band, Josh Williams, The Seldom Scene, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Ned Luberecki, Chris Jones and many others. Country Current routinely performs at bluegrass festivals such as Darrington, Windgap, Gettysburg, Lake Havasu, and Grass Valley. In 2011, Country Current became the first military band to perform at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.
Country Current performs regularly for the president, vice-president, the secretary of the Navy, the chief of naval operations, the chairman and vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy and numerous other dignitaries. Reaching out to communities both locally and nationally, they regularly perform for veterans, elementary schools, and in support of our active-duty Sailors.
Open air fire causes wildfire, occupant charged
Just after 2:00 pm on Tuesday, February 18, 2020, Warren County Fire and Rescue units were dispatched to the 1800 block of Oregon Hollow Road for a reported brush fire which was threatening multiple structures.
Units quickly arrived on the scene to find approximately 3/4 of an acre of wooded area involved in fire with the fire spreading away from any structures. Firefighters were able to quickly control the blaze before any structures were damaged. It was determined that the fire was caused by an open air fire spreading to the wooded area when winds increased.
The occupant of the home where the fire started was issued a summons by the Virginia Department of Forestry for violation of VA Code 10.1-1142. The occupant faces being guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor and may be liable for the full amount of all expenses incurred in suppressing the fire.
This incident should serve as a reminder as to why the 4pm Burn Law is in effect between February 15th and April 30th.
Briefly, the 4pm Burn Law regulates the open air burning before 4pm and after midnight. This law was adopted to reduce the number of wildfires during this period of risk associated with weather conditions that include elevated winds, lower relative humidity, and dryer forest floor fuels.
For more information on the 4pm Burn Law, visit www.dof.virginia.gov/fire.
Units on the call:
- Engine 1
- Brush 8
- Brush 9
- Brush 10
- Tanker 3
- Tanker 8
- Tanker 9
- Ambulance 4
- Fire Marshal 1
- Forest Warden 1 (Department of Forestry)