Connect with us

State News

Virginia Attorney General Miyares fights to keep Title 42 in place



Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares asked the United States District of Columbia District Court to permit a group of states led by Arizona and Louisiana to intervene in Huisha-Huisha v. Mayorkas, a case in which a judge terminated the Title 42 policy. This policy is one of the last remaining tools to strengthen the protection of our southern border.

“The crisis on the southern border affects all of us, as the cartels continue to utilize their weakness to smuggle drugs, specifically fentanyl, into our country. Title 42 is critical to fighting back, securing our border, and keeping out these dangerous substances,” said Attorney General Miyares.

Without General Miyares’ intervention, Title 42 will cease to exist on December 21, dramatically worsening the border crisis right before Christmas. As the states’ motion explains, termination of Title 42 will exacerbate “the costs imposed on the States. Allowing intervention will ensure those interests are represented.”

Joining General Miyares are the attorneys general of Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

See motion here.

Share the News:

State News

New bill allows some Virginia localities to incentivize urban green spaces



Virginia localities will soon have a streamlined ability to offer incentives that aid the development of urban green spaces, like city parks or sports fields.

Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, introduced House Bill 1510 to give localities regulatory flexibility. The General Assembly passed the bill with a House vote of 72-27 and a Senate vote of 32-8.

Urban green space is defined as a piece of land covered with grass, trees, shrubs or other vegetation and located around a populated area, according to the bill. The proposed area must help reduce higher temperatures sometimes associated with urban development or aid the mitigation of stormwater in order to qualify for incentives and can be public or private projects.

The incentives would not be available in rural areas and areas of low population density.

The incentives may include a reduction in project permit fees or a streamlined permit approval process, according to the bill. The type of available permits would be up to localities but could include permits such as building, Adams stated.

“The process for obtaining permits is both costly and lengthy; ideally, this legislation could help speed up that process for developments incorporating [urban green space],” Adams stated.

The incentives received will depend on how much green space is implemented on a building site.

The bill gives cities the flexibility to opt-in, Adams told a House Finance subcommittee.

“The bill does not mandate localities do anything but rather gives those that currently have resources a tool to incentivize or accelerate urban green space development, and there is no fiscal impact for the state,” Adams said.

Lee Francis, deputy director for the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, said he sees the bill as an opportunity to serve communities that don’t have access to green spaces.

“It gives localities a tool to expand green spaces into underserved communities and kind of even the playing field a little bit,” Francis said.

Jeremy Hoffman, the chief scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, believes that more green spaces in urban communities, such as Richmond, are beneficial to various aspects of the environment.

“They lower air temperatures, they soak up stormwater that falls on them as rain, and they clean the air of harmful pollutants,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman describes urban green spaces as “natural air conditioning for cities” while being the “environmental clean-up crew.”

Building more green spaces can reduce a phenomenon called the urban heat island effect. It is when air temperatures rise in a city from man-made infrastructures, such as dark paved roads, compared to rural areas, according to Hoffman.

“Those [paved roads] absorb more of the sun’s energy throughout the day and then re-emit it back into the air as heat throughout the afternoon and overnight, basically raising the temperatures in those landscapes,” Hoffman said.

Scientists can quickly attain heat island results and use air thermometers or before and after thermal heat photos taken from the ground or by satellite, according to Hoffman.

“We trimmed up some trees, planted some new plants, and were able to show between the morning and the afternoon the impact of improving that green space,” Hoffman said while talking about Rosemoore Pocket Park in Scott’s Addition neighborhood in Richmond.

Green spaces can lower temperatures by 10 degrees to 20 degrees on hot days, according to Shelly Barrick Parsons, executive director for Capital Trees.

Capital Trees is a Richmond-based nonprofit organization that works to implement green spaces in the community through partnerships with the city, corporations, and other nonprofits.

Barrick Parsons sees the potential in the bill and what it could do for urban cities.

“I think it has an opportunity to increase the development of green space if municipalities take advantage of the opportunity,” Barrick Parsons said.

The incentives can help accelerate a development timeline but also have financial impacts.

“Permitting fees can be just a few thousand dollars, but that $2,000 can make a lot of difference to a nonprofit,” Barrick Parsons said.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin approved the bill on March 23, and the measure will become effective on July 1.

By Adrianna Lawrence
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

State News

Governor Glenn Youngkin signs legislation providing financial support for expecting mothers



On March 29, 2023, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed HB 2290, patroned by Delegate Emily Brewer, and SB 1314, patroned by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, which provides financial support for expecting mothers.

Governor Glenn Youngkin participates in the bill signing ceremony at East End Pregnancy Center, Mar. 29, 2023. Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.

“During Women’s History Month, it was an honor to stand with two extraordinary women who championed this legislation that supports women and mothers across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “These bills recognize that we can do more to support our expecting mothers and ensure they have the needed financial support to take that next step towards creating a family.”

Governor Youngkin signed the following bills :

HB 2290, patroned by Delegate Emily Brewer, and SB 1314, patroned by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, provide that in the event that the initial petition for the establishment of parentage is commenced within six months of the live birth of a child, the judgment or order shall, except for a good cause shown or as otherwise agreed to by the parties, apportion between the legal parents, in proportion to the legal parents’ gross incomes, as used for calculating the monthly child support obligation, (i) the mother’s unreimbursed pregnancy and delivery expenses and (ii) those reasonable expenses incurred by either parent for the benefit of the child prior to the birth of the child.

“HB2290 is landmark legislation that will allow new mothers the opportunity to seek pregnancy and delivery-related expenses. This measure being signed into law will assist in reducing the financial burden on mothers at a time when caring for a newborn is of utmost importance. I am proud to have carried this priority bill on behalf of the Governor, and I am grateful for his commitment to such vital legislation,” said Delegate Emily Brewer.

“Children are such a wonderful blessing, and every day I witness the physical and emotional resiliency of moms. Pregnancy is really hard work. Babies are also expensive, and they need a lot of stuff even before birth. It just makes sense that child support should include the expenses of preparing for a baby. This bill will help moms have better financial resiliency by lifting a little of their load, giving them a chance to worry less, and the ability even to find more time for the joy and hope that babies bring,” said Senator Siobhan Dunnavant.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

State News

Youngkin proposes carveout shielding ‘therapeutic’ CBD from new cannabis rules



Gov. Glenn Youngkin is recommending changes to a pending state law that would exempt some non-intoxicating CBD products from strict new regulations on the sale of delta-8 and other hemp-based concoctions that get users high.

After significant pushback to a proposed rule limiting THC to 2 milligrams per package — which many hemp proponents have said would effectively destroy the industry in Virginia — the governor is proposing a carveout for products that have a 25-to-1 ratio of CBD to THC. Both chemicals are found in cannabis plants, but marijuana plants contain more psychoactive THC, and hemp plants generally have higher amounts of non-intoxicating CBD.

Youngkin proposed his changes in the form of a substitute bill, a process typically used for more substantive amendments to the legislation as opposed to minor technical fixes.

“The governor’s amendment continues his efforts to crack down on dangerous THC intoxicants, including synthetic products such as delta-8,” Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said Tuesday.

The amended bill reiterates that any business selling edible or smokable hemp products covered under the proposed rules would have to pay a $1,000 fee to register with the state and face fines of up to $10,000 per day for selling unlawful or mislabeled products.

Some of the changes came in response to pushback from Lisa Smith, a Virginia mother who advocated for the legalization of CBD oil eight years ago as a treatment for her daughter’s severe epilepsy. Both Youngkin and House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, were receptive to Smith’s concerns that an overly broad bill could jeopardize the shipments of CBD oil she receives regularly from a company based in Colorado.

“Following feedback from parents whose children have experienced positive benefits from CBD products, the substitute also includes a narrowly tailored exemption clarifying that the legislation will not outlaw those therapeutic products,” Porter said. “Governor Youngkin’s substitute takes into account these critically necessary products while going even further to clear store shelves of illegal products responsible for sending children to the hospital.”

For months, state lawmakers have been wrestling with the question of how to clamp down on largely unregulated THC products that have become available at smoke shops and convenience stores despite having intoxicating effects similar to those produced by marijuana. Retail marijuana sales remain illegal in Virginia outside of the state-licensed medical dispensaries that could stand to gain from the state cracking down on businesses selling alternatives like delta-8.

Youngkin has also suggested scrapping a controversial rule that would have required the addition of “bittering agents” to any topical CBD products like creams and ointments. Those products aren’t meant to be ingested, but giving them a purposefully unpleasant taste was pitched as a way to ensure no one would think about eating them. The bill still requires new topical products to come with a warning label stating they are “not intended for human consumption.”

Skeptics of the proposal to allow higher THC levels in hemp-based products have warned it would undercut the bill’s purpose and leave retailers more leeway to find creative workarounds to the new rules.

“While Governor Youngkin’s amendments would prohibit the sale of synthetic marijuana-like products in the commonwealth, it would also keep products which contain THC in intoxicating amounts on store shelves,” said JM Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, which supports marijuana legalization.

The legislative amendments proposed by Youngkin, which the General Assembly will take up on April 12, largely reflect suggestions made by the Virginia Cannabis Association, a lobbying group representing many in the hemp industry. Former delegate Greg Habeeb, a lobbyist for the Virginia Cannabis Association, said the amendment “saves” a lot of the full-spectrum CBD products the group was hoping to save.

“They were very focused on achieving their public safety and public health goals while doing as little harm to the hemp industry as possible,” Habeeb said of the Youngkin administration. “I think they’ve struck a pretty good balance.”

The governor also recommended technical amendments to pending legislation to transfer oversight of the medical marijuana program from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to the newly created Virginia Cannabis Control Authority on Jan. 1. The authority was envisioned as a regulator for the recreational marijuana industry but Youngkin and other Republicans have refused to go along with efforts to legalize retail weed sales outside the medical program.


by Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

State News

As fentanyl overdoses surge, education on how to reduce their impacts remains insufficient



This story is being published through a partnership between the Mercury and the Medill News Service.

Tricia Obester, an elementary school teacher and mother of a high school freshman, knew fentanyl overdoses were a national crisis. She was also aware that nationally some students were taking drugs. What she didn’t realize was how young some students were when they suffered overdoses. She also never suspected that juvenile overdoses had struck so close to her home.

On Jan. 31, a 14-year-old passed away in the boys’ bathroom of Wakefield High School in Arlington after an overdose. It was the same school where her son studied. Obester said the tragedy was “a definite wake-up call” to her and the community.

Another overdose occurred in an Arlington shopping mall parking garage on March 1. Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that the three people involved were juveniles.

There were no juvenile overdoses reported in 2019, according to Arlington Police Deputy Chief Wayne Vincent. The figure increased to one nonfatal overdose in 2020 and then jumped to eight overdoses in 2022. So far this year, Vincent said that seven juvenile overdoses had been reported in Arlington County.

Nationwide, increasing numbers of teens and young adults have overdosed on opioids, especially fentanyl. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49, according to a Washington Post analysis. Substance abuse experts say educating the public to reduce negative consequences associated with drug use is crucial to prevention. But much of the education that does exist is insufficient. The gaps are especially significant in immigrant and low-income communities.

“The current drug poisoning epidemic is like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my career,” Jon Delena, associate administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and a DEA special agent for nearly 27 years, said at a congressional hearing in February. “We must do everything we can to stop the crisis.”

A collection of photos of people who have lost their lives due to fentanyl in the lobby of the Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters. (Pingping Yin)

Efforts to reduce negative consequences associated with drug use are commonly known as harm reduction. Dr. Neeraj Gandora, chief medical officer for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said harm reduction is an important pathway to ensure that patients who may not be ready to engage in full treatment are at least able to mitigate the harms associated with the use of drugs.

For example, educating the public on how to administer naloxone, a medicine that reverses an opioid overdose, is a crucial element of harm reduction, according to Gandora.

Naloxone can rapidly block the effects of opioids when given in time. There are two forms of naloxone that anyone can use without medical training or authorization: prefilled nasal spray and an injectable version. Nasal spray naloxone is more common because it is needle-free, easy to use, and small to carry. It can be sprayed into one nostril of the person who has overdosed while the person lays on their back.

Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl, the small amount that fits on the tip of a pencil, can be lethal depending on a person’s body size, tolerance and past usage. (Drug Enforcement Administration)

In addition, Gandora said people need to be taught how to spot the symptoms of risky drug use: “If we don’t identify patients, we’re not actually able to get them into treatment.”

In 2021, over 107,000 Americans lost their lives due to drug poisoning, which means an estimated 294 people died of drug poisoning every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two-thirds of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl, the small amount that fits on the tip of a pencil, can be lethal depending on a person’s body size, tolerance, and past usage. DEA seized more than 50 million fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills and 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder last year. That would be enough to supply a potentially lethal dose to every member of the U.S. population.

Rising demand for naloxone

Arlington County quickly intensified its efforts regarding overdose harm reduction soon after the overdose at Wakefield.

Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative, Arlington’s opioid and other addictions task force founded in 2017, has held at least one naloxone distribution every week since the beginning of February. The first event lasted only one hour. Three weeks later, it was extended to a whole day in response to the skyrocketing requests for the lifesaving drug.

Participants received a 10-minute, in-person training on how to administer naloxone. After the training, they received a free box of Narcan, a brand name of the most common nasal-spray form of naloxone, and several fentanyl test strips.

The Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative also provides free online naloxone training and free naloxone by mail.

Deborah Barber, an Arlington County resident, said before the overdose at Wakefield, she hadn’t thought the fentanyl crisis was affecting anybody in her community.

Shortly after the incident, she took a one-hour online opioid overdose harm reduction training. Then she brought her husband and high school-aged son to the in-person training to learn how to administer naloxone.

“This important information should be shared with all of my family members as well,” Barber said. 

Harm reduction educational materials provided by the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative. (Pingping Yin)

Access challenges

Naloxone has been available at all Arlington public library branches since last summer.

At Marymount University, located in the northern part of the county, 29 new opioid overdose emergency boxes containing naloxone have been hanging directly next to automated external defibrillators on campus since the end of last year.

But despite such attempts to expand access to the drug, naloxone remains a prescription medicine. That means under federal regulation, adolescents are not allowed to carry naloxone at school.

Jennifer Sexton, a substance abuse counselor with Arlington Public Schools, said she worries that middle school students may not be responsible enough to carry Narcan and may spray it while joking around. But “I do think high schoolers definitely could carry it,” she said.

Staffing shortages make opioid overdose treatment facilities scarce in rural areas and communities of color

WASHINGTON – The message arrived for a young Huntington, West Virginia woman. She had been accepted into an opioid addiction therapy program. The problem was she had died two days earlier.

Her 2016 death pushed Huntington Mayor Steve Williams to create a quick response team to treat opioid overdoses.

The quick response team has proven to be a game-changer for Huntington. It helped the city lose nasty nicknames given by national media such as “The epicenter of the nation’s opioid epidemic” and “The overdose capital of America.”

Elsewhere in the country, opioid overdose treatment shortages are still prevalent in many regions, especially in rural areas and communities of color. A lack of staff is one of the main reasons.

In rural areas of West Virginia, for instance, shortages still exist, according to research by Joy Buck, a West Virginia University School of Nursing professor. Most addiction treatment facilities are located in urban areas. But West Virginia is largely a rural state, according to the state government. The majority of West Virginia’s 1.8 million residents live in communities of fewer than 2,500 people.

“We need to have [treatment centers] in regions throughout the nation, to have adequate treatment facilities to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power to give an individual an opportunity to be able to come back and be a fully productive citizen again,” Williams said in January at the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that telemedicine has not expanded access to care for people suffering from opioid addiction. It also found that most patients who used telemedicine lived in higher-income metro areas.

Some communities of color are experiencing the fastest increases in rates of opioid overdose death. But access to opioid and substance use disorder treatment is lower in Black and Hispanic communities.

Drug overdose deaths grew by approximately 30% from 2019 to 2020 in the United States. During the same period, drug overdose death rates increased by 44% and 39% among Black and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native populations, respectively, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Black and Hispanic people were 3.5 to 8.1 percentage points less likely than white people to complete treatment for alcohol and drugs, according to a report published by the National Institutes of Health.

A cross-sectional study of all 3,142 counties or county-equivalents published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found counties with highly segregated white communities had more facilities to provide buprenorphine, a drug prescribed to treat dependency problems.

Dr. Neeraj Gandotra, chief medical officer for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said his agency has recognized this issue. It requires all new grant recipients to submit a data-driven disparity impact statement outlining how they plan to address behavioral health disparities within their grants.

Gandotra has also introduced several programs within SAMHSA to close equity gaps in opioid overdose treatment.

For example, the agency created a Tribal Opioid Response Program to address the public health crisis caused by escalating opioid and stimulant misuse in tribal communities. 

And it created technology transfer centers dedicated to American Indian and Alaskan Native populations and separate ones for Hispanic and Latino populations. The purpose of these centers is to develop and strengthen the workforce that provides prevention, treatment and recovery support services for substance use disorder and mental illness.

“We need to eliminate the racial and ethnic disparities that plagued the overdose epidemic,” said Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Illinois, at a hearing in the Capitol. Her district has become more rural after a recent redistricting. 

Even in communities with abundant substance abuse treatment for adults, adolescents don’t have equally sufficient options, said Jennifer Sexton, a substance abuse counselor who has worked for Arlington Public Schools in Virginia for seven years.

“The problem overall is that we don’t have enough people in the field to do the work,” said Mayor Nancy Backus of Auburn, Washington. 

Auburn has an opioid overdose treatment center in the city. However, Backus said the staff there suffers from burnout, and the treatment center is desperate for new employees.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the National Drug Control Policy, told mayors from across the country in January that his agency wants to push education institutions to develop more training programs to expand the workforce.

“The problem with that is very few schools today teach addiction curriculum, so the interest never develops,” he said.

Increasingly, teachers and staff throughout the county’s 41 schools are requesting naloxone. Sexton received 20 pages of names within the school system asking for naloxone after recent overdoses. Over 1,000 staff in Arlington Public Schools were trained in ways to reduce negative consequences associated with drug use, especially by administering naloxone.

Last month, two federal panels of addiction experts unanimously recommended that Narcan be made widely available without a prescription. That makes it very likely that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will approve an over-the-counter version of naloxone.

Dr. Timothy Westlake, an emergency physician from Wisconsin and the primary architect of that state’s prescription opioid strategy, said there are no side effects to naloxone.

“So it’s one of those things where I don’t see any reason … to have a prescription,” he said.

Darrell Sampson, executive director of student services for Arlington Public Schools, said if the FDA approves a nonprescription version of naloxone, it will “give us a different legal landscape from which we can work.”

Teaching students about harm reduction

All Arlington public schools teach students how to protect themselves from drug use beginning in the fourth grade.

Sexton said they teach elementary students how to read a medication label, recognize a medication has expired, and say no when strangers or even other children offer candy or pills. Middle school students and older focus on harm reduction for opioids and particularly fentanyl.

Sexton said most students have already been warned by their parents. But some fifth graders appeared scared when she showed them rainbow-colored fentanyl “because it did look so much like candy.” 

Rainbow-colored fentanyl tablets. (Drug Enforcement Administration)

Not all parents are satisfied with the curriculum.

“The curriculum at the elementary school presently is behind where it should be on the standards that we’re supposed to teach,” said Obester, the elementary school teacher and mother. “The amount of exposure (to drugs) that kids have from older brothers and sisters and from social media … I think is something that was not predicted.”

At the elementary school where Obester works in Fairfax County, teachers found third graders vaping recently. They got the e-cigarettes from older siblings.

“I think the curriculum needs to be updated. I think we need substance abuse counselors meeting with students throughout elementary schools,” Obester said.

Shortages of substance abuse counselors

Arlington, like many other school systems, has a shortage of substance abuse counselors. There are 41 public schools in Arlington with nearly 27,000 students. But there are only six substance abuse counselors.

Sexton, for example, serves two middle schools and 24 elementary schools. Wakefield, the high school with the recent overdose fatality, has over 2,500 students but shares its only substance abuse counselor with other schools.

After recent overdoses, school substance abuse counselors started getting many more requests for education about overdoses and how to reduce their negative consequences.

“There’re a lot of requests for us to do different presentations at different types of community activities, which takes us away from really getting to meet with our students the way that we would like,” Sexton said.

She said it’s difficult to predict which children are likely to abuse drugs. But risk groups include students whose grades suddenly drop and students who suffer trauma, such as divorce or losing a family member.

Some students with mental health issues self-medicate, according to Obester. “This makes sense when you can’t get help otherwise,” she said.

At a meeting at Wakefield one month after the student died, a parent urged the school board to increase the number of counselors. “You have to find more!” the parent shouted to applause.

The shortage of counselors is “a national issue,” said Deborah Warren, deputy director of the Arlington County Department of Human Services. “But we definitely need, honestly, far more resources.”

Warren said the county is coming up with more creative strategies for recruitment, such as paying for substance abuse counselors to move to Arlington and serve the community.

Harm reduction education is disparate

Students and parents are eager for harm reduction education. But they are not the only groups in search of help.

“We can’t just rely on the schools to do something. We can’t just rely on families to do something. It needs to be throughout the community,” Obester said.

Arlington’s immigrant community and low-income families especially need more resources.

In Arlington County, most naloxone training and harm reduction materials, such as flyers and videos, are bilingual in order to serve Spanish speakers.

But in a highly diverse county like Arlington, many communities remain without useful tools. For example, students at Hoffman-Boston Elementary School come from 47 countries. Not all their parents are proficient in English.

Warren said it is particularly hard to find counselors who speak the many languages spoken by Arlington families. Arlington Public Schools has even posted ads in Puerto Rico in an attempt to recruit bilingual counselors.

The challenge is even greater on the West Coast, in communities such as Orange County, California, which is home to many Chinese immigrants.

Various community-based organizations have started to provide opioid harm reduction to non-English speakers in Orange County. For instance, the Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center printed postcards in Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian languages that describe the symptoms of overdoses and how to use naloxone.

In order to educate immigrant communities, it’s not enough just to translate the language. “It also means the cultural consideration and the multicultural piece to really understand the nuances behind it and how you can better reach that population,” said Luna Lu, a mental health clinician with the center.

Because government officials may not be able to reach every group in a diverse area, community groups that represent different cultural backgrounds may be a more effective way to reach diverse populations, said Lu.

“We are the tentacles in the community,” she said. “And we are more than willing to fill those holes.”

But she complains that funding is scarce. The Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center has to spend its limited funds on public information campaigns. The only donation it received for this effort was 1,000 boxes of Narcan that it received for free via a website called

Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative received $70,000 this year from Virginia’s State Opioid Response Grant for opioid overdose prevention, according to Emily Siqveland, the opioids program manager of the Arlington County Department of Human Services.

She said that’s enough for most of their campaigns, such as Narcan distribution and advertisements on TV, public transportation and social media apps. But more would allow the department to expand its overdose education offerings.

Siqveland said in her dream world, Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative would work like a music band, “driving around, doing these trainings in different neighborhoods.”

“If we here in Arlington County, one of the richest counties in the country, can’t access the funding and put this in place and help our students pass the disaster … then I don’t know who can,” said Obester.


by Pingping Yin, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

State News

Governor Glenn Youngkin signs legislation supporting Virginians with developmental disabilities and their families



On March 27, 2023, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed key pieces of legislation that will help support Virginians with developmental disabilities and their families obtain the support and tools necessary to ensure that they are able to succeed.

“The bills I’m signing today will improve the lives of so many Virginians, including those with developmental disabilities, who contribute so much to the culture and success of our vibrant Commonwealth,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “We must continue to strive to equip our students with the skills to compete, and education is such an important part of that process.”

Governor Youngkin signed the following bills today:

HB 1963, patroned by Delegate Chris Runion, and SB 945, patroned by Senator David Suetterlein, directs the Department of Medical Assistance Services to take steps to amend the Family and Individual Supports, Community Living, and Building Independence waivers to provide greater financial flexibility to individuals with developmental disabilities who are receiving waiver services. The bill requires the Department to report on its progress to the Governor and the General Assembly by December 1, 2023.

HB 1554, patroned by Delegate Emily Brewer, and SB 943, patroned by Senator David Suetterlein, requires each public high school in the Commonwealth to publicly identify on its official website the faculty member responsible for special education transition planning and coordination at such high school.

SB 1430, patroned by Senator David Suetterlein, requires the Department of Education to convene a stakeholder work group to make recommendations on reducing barriers to and improving access to paid work-based learning experiences for English language learner students.

“In Roanoke today, Governor Youngkin signed three of my bills into law that will provide greater transparency and flexibility for Virginians with developmental disabilities and opportunities for English learner students. I would like to thank Governor Youngkin and the many advocates, including The Arc of Virginia, the Roanoke City School Board, and the Commission on Youth, for coming together around these ideas that will improve the lives of so many Virginians. We are always strongest when we work together, and each of these bills will further empower Virginia families to thrive,” said Senator David Suetterlein.

“I am extremely blessed and pleased to continue our collaboration with The Arc on this legislation. With the Governor’s signature, focused, meaningful and impactful support will be available to our friends and neighbors who need it most,” said Delegate Chris Runion.

“Signing HB1554 into law means that the transition process will be more transparent for parents as they navigate special education services. Identifying the coordinator for each school will ensure parents know who their navigator is. As State Chair of the Commission on Youth, this legislation was part of our priority agenda for special education service coordination. I want to thank Governor Youngkin for signing HB1554, and I know he understands the positive impact this will have for Virginia parents,” said Delegate Emily Brewer.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

State News

Board of Health members express concern about lack of state health commissioner



Members of Virginia’s State Board of Health expressed worries Thursday about the ongoing lack of a state health commissioner after the General Assembly failed to reappoint former commissioner Dr. Colin Greene in February.

“Several of us are very concerned about the delay in the appointment of a qualified leader,” said Board Vice Chair Wendy Klein of the Medical Society of Virginia.

Board member and veterinarian Jim Shuler urged the appointment of a commissioner with “a strong background as a medical physician and a strong background in public health.”

State law requires that the commissioner be a physician licensed to practice medicine in Virginia and certified by a recognized board overseeing a primary care specialty, as well as someone “experienced in public health duties, sanitary science, and environmental health.”

In written remarks sent to the board chair, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel said Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration expects to complete interviews for the commissioner position by the end of the week, and he is “hopeful the governor will make a decision shortly.”

While Littel was expected to appear in person at the board’s Thursday meeting, his letter said he was unable to attend “due to a commitment to the governor.” Schedules from the governor’s office show he was slated to appear alongside Youngkin at a listening session on fentanyl held at a Bristol high school Thursday morning.

The health commissioner seat has been empty since Feb. 10, after Democrats in the state Senate refused to confirm the appointment of Greene, a former Army doctor, and local health district director. Greene had come under fire following a Washington Post story detailing his skepticism of the links between racism and health disparities, particularly regarding maternal health and mortality. Former state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, in a floor speech on Feb. 7 said Greene’s continued leadership was “having a chilling effect” on state public health priorities identified by the Legislative Black Caucus.

In the absence of Greene or a replacement, Virginia Department of Health Chief Operating Officer Christopher Lindsay has been acting as the top official in the agency but is precluded from assuming the commissioner role by the state code’s requirements for the position.

“I’m there simply as the chief operating officer to continue to provide that day-to-day leadership for the agency in consultation with the secretary of health,” he told reporters Thursday. Even in the absence of a commissioner, he said, “I believe we’ve continued to thrive.”

The lack of a commissioner doesn’t prevent the State Board of Health from operating, said several members of the administration.

Between the Virginia Department of Health, Board of Health, and health and human resources secretariat, “Everything is covered,” said Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources Leah Mills.

Victoria LaCivita, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jason Miyares, said in an email that “no board action requires approval by the commissioner.”

In an interview, Shuler, who was appointed to the board by former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, said he hopes the next state health commissioner will be “apolitical,” adding, “Health and disease, it doesn’t ask you if you’re a Democrat or a Republican.”

He said the board has “been in the dark” on the commissioner selection process. And while he acknowledged the body has not previously been involved in vetting candidates for the role, he said that “anybody in their right mind in the political world should realize that input should be accepted.”


by Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

Share the News:

Continue Reading


Thank You to our Local Business Participants:


Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
Partly Cloudy
7:01 am7:33 pm EDT
Feels like: 57°F
Wind: 5mph SW
Humidity: 30%
Pressure: 30.1"Hg
UV index: 4

Upcoming Events

6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Mar 29 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
5:00 pm No Foolin’ Warren County Rocks @ First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall
No Foolin’ Warren County Rocks @ First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall
Mar 31 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
No Foolin' Warren County Rocks @ First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall
Warren Coalition’s No Foolin’ Warren County Rocks includes a team Scavenger Hunt for prizes! Top teams in each category will receive $25 gift cards for each team member, and the overall championship team will receive[...]
9:00 am Breakfast with the Easter Bunny @ Living Water Christian Church
Breakfast with the Easter Bunny @ Living Water Christian Church
Apr 1 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Breakfast with the Easter Bunny @ Living Water Christian Church
Living Water Christian Church will once again be hosting our Pancake Breakfast with the Easter Bunny on April 1, 2023, from 9am – 12pm. Come on out and enjoy a great breakfast, pictures with the[...]
12:00 pm Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 1 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Settle's Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Log Cabin in the Historic Area. Follow your nose to the Log Cabin to see what is cooking on the hearth. Immerse yourself within the 19th century enslaved culture and its foods. Explore the taste[...]
12:00 pm The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 1 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Apr 1 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
2:00 pm Community Easter Egg Hunt @ Fantasyland
Community Easter Egg Hunt @ Fantasyland
Apr 1 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Community Easter Egg Hunt @ Fantasyland
Pre-Registration begins March 15th! Provide Name, Age, Child/Pup, Email and Phone in one of three ways: FACEBOOK MESSAGE Email Sheree Jennings at OR call the office at 540-635-2825
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Apr 5 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
10:00 am Patriot’s Day @ Warren Heritage Society
Patriot’s Day @ Warren Heritage Society
Apr 8 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Patriot's Day @ Warren Heritage Society
Join the fun with reenactors, a blacksmith, the outdoor kitchen, our smokehouse, and tours all day of Balthis House. Sons of the American Revolution will fire muskets at 3 pm. Free event for all ages![...]
11:00 am Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 8 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Eggs are popping up all over Sky Meadows State Park. Welcome spring with a day of egg-citing family activities. Explore the diverse park landscapes that allow our egg laying species to thrive including[...]