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.”
Social Security benefits will be paid on time and other updates related to the COVID-19 pandemic
Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, reminds the public that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments will continue to be paid on time during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency also reminds everyone to be aware of scammers who try to take advantage of the pandemic to trick people into providing personal information or payment via retail gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency, or by mailing cash, to maintain Social Security benefit payments or receive economic impact payments from the Department of the Treasury.
“Social Security will pay monthly benefits on time and these payments will not be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Commissioner Saul said. “I want our beneficiaries to be aware that scammers may try to trick you into thinking the pandemic is stopping or somehow changing your Social Security payments, but that is not true. Don’t be fooled.”
The Department of the Treasury will soon provide information about economic impact payments under the recently enacted law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Treasury, not Social Security, will be making direct payments to eligible people. Please do not call Social Security about these payments as the agency does not have information to share.
The agency continues to direct the public to its online self-service options whenever possible. Local offices are closed to the public but are available by phone. People can find their local field office phone number by accessing the Field Office Locator.
To allow available agents to provide better phone coverage, the agency is temporarily changing the National 800 Number hours starting on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The hours will change from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. local time to 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. local time. The agency is experiencing longer than normal wait times on the 800 Number and asks the public to remain patient, use its online services at www.socialsecurity.gov, or call their local office.
Please visit the agency’s COVID-19 web page at www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus/ for important information and updates.
Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – April 3, 2020
Important updates from Congressman Ben Cline – April 3, 2020
Since last week’s passage of H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, federal agencies have issued guidelines for how this bill will be implemented. This important bill will utilize new resources to fight on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in America and will inject funding into the economy to help American workers, families, small businesses, and industries so that our country can not only survive this crisis but thrive when we do.
Day by day, more details continue to be made available about both the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and the Economic Impact Payments available to individuals, which are provisions of the CARES Act designed to provide key relief to the American people in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus. For an overview of action the U.S. Department of the Treasury has taken since the bill’s passage, please visit treasury.gov/cares.
The Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force, which is being run by FEMA and focused on meeting the demand for critical medical resources and supplies, published a fact sheet detailing its four-pronged approach to address issues related to critical protective and life-saving equipment: Preservation, Acceleration, Expansion, and Allocation.
To learn more about the Economic Impact Payments available to individuals through the CARES Act, please visit irs.gov. There, you will find information about who is eligible to receive payments and whether you need to take any action in order to receive the payments, among other helpful information. The IRS has said it will begin distributing the checks in the next three weeks.
For business owners struggling to keep their doors open and their employees’ taken care of during this difficult time, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has two loan programs. First, the recently passed CARES Act created the Paycheck Protection Program, an initiative that provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to help small businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.
Secondly, the SBA has now approved Virginia for its Economic Injury Disaster Program. The SBA will work directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted. Please visit sba.gov/coronavirus for more information on the two loan programs.
This week, the President announced that the CDC’s nationwide guidance to slow the spread of the virus, which was published 15 days ago, will be extended until at least April 30th. As Dr. Fauci said, “The reason why we feel so strongly about the necessity of the additional 30 days is that now is the time, whenever you’re having an effect, not to take your foot off the accelerator.”
Additionally, during one of this week’s briefings, Dr. Fauci said that vaccine trials are, “right on target for the year to year and a half.” On the subject of treating the virus, Dr. Birx announced that a coronavirus antibody test could be available within this month. Such a test could help identify those who have had the virus and recovered.
As of March 30, the U.S. Navy’s gigantic floating hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, arrived in New York City where it has been sent to help relieve the pressure on the city’s hospitals that are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. The Comfort’s 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms will largely be used for non-coronavirus patients, freeing up much-needed space at the city’s overtaxed hospitals. Likewise, the USNS Mercy sits on the shores of Los Angeles.
Rest assured, I will continue to keep you informed, monitor the situation in Virginia and around the country, and work with my colleagues to ensure the full, coordinated force of the federal government is behind our efforts to stop the spread of this disease. Please visit cline.house.gov/covid-19 for additional resources.
If you experience symptoms or have been exposed to someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19, contact your doctor immediately to determine if you need screening.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Resources:
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School work, meal deliveries continue during pandemic
Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) food services have been on a roll, literally and figuratively.
Last week, WCPS Child Nutrition handed out almost 2,100 free meals to help support local students with breakfasts and lunches during the COVID-19 pandemic, WCPS Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard told members of the Warren County School Board during its April 1 regular meeting.
On Tuesday, she said 3,582 meals were served to more than 597 students — 1,088 were served at E.W. Morrison Elementary School; 332 were served via the food services van, and 968 were served from Warren County school buses.
That was a substantial increase over Monday when 804 meals were served at E.W. Morrison; 276 via the food services van; and 636 from the buses for a total of 1,716 meals served.
“I really have to give a shout out to our food services department and our transportation department,” said Sheppard. “They have done a phenomenal job of making sure our students are fed.” Sheppard said that the schedule for the bagged meals program has been modified. For instance, WCPS will deliver two-days worth of breakfasts and lunches to specific sites on Mondays and Wednesdays. Then on Fridays, WCPS will deliver three-days worth of breakfasts and lunches at various sites to cover weekend meals.
To access the WCPS Child Nutrition bagged meals program for the full schedule of pick-up and/or drive-through times and locations please go to https://www.wcps.k12.va.us/index.php/child-nutrition
“We also just received permission from the Virginia Department of Education that the student does not have to be present for food pickup,” Sheppard said. “Parents must provide students’ names, but the children don’t have to be present to receive their free meals.”
Warren County School Board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower said that she recently rode on a school bus to help deliver free school meals.
“The kids and the parents are very appreciative,” she said, “and the kids are super sweet and very engaging. Let’s get the word out that we’re going to take care of them and see them through this.”
“Even in this difficult time, our community is pulling through as always,” said School Board member Kristen Pence.
During her superintendent’s report to the board, Sheppard also said that WCPS teachers continue to support students on a daily basis.
“Our teachers and principals have been working very hard to ensure the continuity of instruction,” said Sheppard. “Where we can, we are providing virtual instruction and for those students without internet connectivity, we are providing packets of learning materials.”
Teachers also hold “office” hours from home every weekday during mornings and afternoons, she said, adding that students and their families may interact with teachers via email, Google Classroom, or telephone if they have questions.
“Teachers are reaching out regularly to students via email and phone,” Sheppard told the board members.
Additionally, WCPS is initiating plans for a comprehensive summer school program, but currently is unsure “when and if we can resume normal operations, but we are hopeful we will have a robust summer school program in July to help students get ready for the upcoming school year that starts in August,” said Sheppard.
WCPS also hasn’t lost sight of prom and graduation, which are the big memory-making events for high school seniors. “But it’s still too early to predict when these events will be held based on currently available information,” she said.
School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr. noted that WCPS is “striving hard” to take care of its teachers, children, and staff.
“Bottom line,” he said, “our community will pull out of this and will be fine. I know it’s tough. But if we do what we need to do, we can hopefully move on and get back to our normal routine.”
Winchester Police on point of carjacking suspect arrest in Front Royal
Prior to 8 a.m., Thursday morning, April 2nd, not far from the Royal Examiner/National Media Services’ Commerce Avenue Front Royal offices, a joint law enforcement operation led by the Winchester City Police Department’s Investigative Unit arrested a suspect on multiple charges in a March 28 incident in the city. Below is the Winchester Police Department’s full press release on its investigation and Thursday morning’s joint-departmental operation:
On April 2, 2020, at approximately 7:15 a.m., the Winchester Police Department (WPD), assisted by other law enforcement agencies, executed a search warrant at 218 East 6th Street in Front Royal, VA following an ongoing investigation into a carjacking in the City of Winchester. As a result of the investigation and search warrant, Diontre Tyrese Bell, 20 years old, of the above address in Front Royal, was arrested and charged with carjacking, robbery, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
On March 28, 2020, at approximately 12:30 a.m., WPD was alerted to a motor vehicle theft that had just occurred in the 100 blocks of East Pall Mall Street. Upon investigation into the incident, detectives learned that the male victim was standing outside his 1990 Dodge Caravan when he was approached by a group of males. One of the males, later identified as Diontre Bell, grabbed the backpack the victim was wearing and took items including a firearm and keys to the van. Threatening statements were made during the encounter. No injuries were sustained during the incident. The van was later recovered on March 30th, parked and unoccupied, along the roadway in the 1300 block of South Braddock Street.
During the execution of the search warrant, two cell phones were seized and DNA was collected. Bell is being held at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Detention Center without bond. The Winchester Police Department would like to publicly thank the Front Royal Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force for their assistance in the investigation.
Coronavirus update: Deaths soar, supplies remain short, convention rescheduled
WASHINGTON — The federal government offered increased financial aid to communities Thursday (April 2) as states continued pleading for more medical equipment to address the novel coronavirus in preparation for the pandemic’s peak.
Over 234,460 cases and almost 5,650 deaths were confirmed across the country as of Thursday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering data dashboard. Health experts and the administration warned that the worst is yet to come.
Democratic National Convention pushed back
The Democratic National Convention, originally scheduled to start July 13 in Milwaukee, will be postponed a month due to the pandemic.
“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” Joe Solmonese, the convention committee’s CEO, said in a statement Thursday.
The convention is now set to run for four days starting on Aug. 17.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who’s leading the delegate count for the Democratic presidential nomination, was vocal about his uncertainty surrounding the convention before the schedule change as the coronavirus continued to exponentially affect Americans.
“I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July,” Biden told Jimmy Fallon during an appearance on the “The Tonight Show” Wednesday night. “I think it’s going to have to move into August.”
The Republican presidential nominating convention is expected to start as planned on Aug. 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Fifteen states and Puerto Rico have delayed their primaries because of the coronavirus as of Wednesday, while upcoming votes in states including Alaska and Wyoming are expected to be conducted completely by mail.
White House announces counter-narcotics mission amid growing coronavirus crisis
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the United States was launching an operation to curb the presence of illegal narcotics in the country as the pandemic persisted.
“We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives,” the president said during the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing.
The U.S. Southern Command will ramp up surveillance and seizures of drug shipments with cooperation from 22 other nations, according to Trump. Additional deployment of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force would help in “doubling our capabilities in the region,” the president said.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that the initiative is part of the administration’s “whole-of-government approach.”
“At a time when the nation and the Department of Defense are focused on protecting the American people from the spread of the coronavirus, we also remain vigilant to the many other threats our country faces,” Esper said.
The announcement came as the country geared up for its peak in coronavirus cases and states pleaded for additional medical equipment to combat the virus.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said intelligence showed that drug cartels were going to “take advantage of the situation and try to infiltrate additional drugs into our country.”
New FEMA documents show medical supply shortage despite states’ requests
Only a fraction of protective equipment and medical supplies requested by five states and the District of Columbia were delivered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), new agency documents show.
As of Monday, less than 10% of the requested 5.2 million N95 masks, less than 1% of the 194 million requested gloves and none of the 15,000 body bags were sent to FEMA’s third region. Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia comprise this area.
“The new documents…confirm the urgent warnings we have been hearing from our nation’s governors and health care professionals for weeks,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said in a statement Thursday.
Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said a Wednesday briefing with FEMA and Health and Human Services Department officials exposed other equipment shortages. The demand for ventilators “outstrips the capacity” of the national demand, according to FEMA, and the shortage is expected to worsen.
To combat supply shortages, FEMA told lawmakers that medical professionals should be re-using protective equipment despite the increased risk of contracting the coronavirus that comes with this practice.
“Rather than casting doubt on the gravity of this pandemic, the administration should have been working around the clock to prepare and execute plans to obtain desperately needed personal protective equipment and medical supplies,” Maloney said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, called the findings “alarming.”
“We already know that the White House delayed taking action for weeks as the virus spread,” he said in a statement. “Now we are seeing further evidence of mismanagement in this emergency with its failure to answer states’ dire requests for masks, gloves, and other critical supplies needed by health care workers.”
Hoyer added: “It is unconscionable that FEMA would ask our frontline health care workers to re-use personal protective equipment, putting their lives and the health of their families at great risk.”
Maryland, D.C. unemployment insurance claims skyrocket amid a pandemic
Over 83,000 Maryland residents and almost 15,000 District of Columbia residents filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor data released Thursday.
Maryland residents who filed unemployment claims doubled from the previous week, making a total of over 120,000 claims in the past two weeks ending on March 28. In the District, residents filed almost 44,000 claims since mid-March, which is already more than the 27,000 claims that D.C. residents filed during 2019.
Over 6.6 million American residents applied for unemployment benefits last week, a record number that helped make a total of more than 10 million American unemployment claims in the month of March due to COVID-19.
Hoyer said in a statement that the unemployment claims data “demonstrates the urgency with which the federal government must step up rather than down.”
By BRYAN GALLION and HALEIGH WHISTED
Capital News Service