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Local nonprofit introduces prescription mailing program for vulnerable and low-income patients

The mail delivery program, which was designed and launched in just 30 days, aims to reduce the possible exposure to the virus for patients, clinic staff, and volunteers and ensures that patients with chronic conditions receive vital medication in a timely manner. It comes at no additional cost to partner clinics or patients and provides a 90-day supply of medication to recipients.

RVAHub Staff

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A Richmond-based nonprofit focused on increasing access to critically needed medications for Virginians with limited income, Rx Partnership, has launched a prescription mailing program that enables partner clinics across the state to send prescriptions directly to patients’ homes rather than patients picking up their medications in person.

The mail delivery program, which was designed and launched in just 30 days, aims to reduce the possible exposure to the virus for patients, clinic staff, and volunteers and ensures that patients with chronic conditions receive vital medication in a timely manner. It comes at no additional cost to partner clinics or patients and provides a 90-day supply of medication to recipients.

“Mail delivery was a part of our long-term strategic plan to further our mission of increasing medication access for vulnerable Virginians,” said Amy Yarcich, Rx Partnership’s Executive Director. “While the last four months have been extremely challenging for everyone, it has been particularly devastating for low-income and uninsured Virginians who already struggle to get their much-needed medications. Launching mail delivery now was essential.”

“Initially, our plan was for the program to run through July 31 but given its success so far and the ongoing need, we are excited to extend it until at least the end of the year.”

Rx Partnership works with 31 clinics across the state, including CrossOver Healthcare Ministry in the Greater Richmond Region. So far, ten clinics are participating in the program, which has given Virginia patients the opportunity to receive medications without putting themselves or others at risk.

“Under normal circumstances, transportation to pick up medications from the clinic can be a challenge for our patients; given the current climate, it’s been even more difficult to do so,” said Julie Bilodeau, CEO at CrossOver Healthcare Ministry. “This program is so valuable because it has allowed our patients to stay safe during the pandemic and still access the medicine they need to stay healthy.”

The prescription mailing program was made possible by generous donations from individuals and community partners in Richmond and throughout the state.

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PHOTOS: Cedarfield retirement community opens new $16 million apartment-style expansion

Cedarfield team members and residents have been working together to transition from an “institutional feel” to the Household model, joining a global health services and senior care movement. Household allows for greater emphasis on engaging residents individually by helping them continue their life pursuits as opposed to making them fit the mold of a traditional nursing home resident.

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Cedarfield, a Henrico County senior living retirement community, has completed the final leg of completion on a $100 million Cedarfield Master Plan Expansion project incorporating a person-centered approach that shapes the physical environment, organizational structure, and enhances interpersonal relationships for residents, family, and staff.

The $16 million, 16,000-square-foot, 40-apartment household facility features residential and industrial kitchens, newly designed dining spaces with multi-seating options, a formal area with a fireplace, family room, and private meeting areas. In addition to the amazing common spaces, every Household resident will enjoy a newly updated apartment, complete with private entryways and doorbells. While creating an atmosphere of genuine home, Household also provides residents with clear opportunities to direct their own lives.

“In this Household model, residents and team members are engaged every step of the way – from learning circles to determining the interests of individual residents, to planning, to implementing and running programs for the household,” says Cedarfield Associate Executive Director Matt Dameron.

Cedarfield team members and residents have been working together to transition from an “institutional feel” to the Household model, joining a global health services and senior care movement. Household allows for greater emphasis on engaging residents individually by helping them continue their life pursuits as opposed to making them fit the mold of a traditional nursing home resident.

“While there are team members in each Household that are primarily responsible for programming, the goal of this model is inclusivity,” says Dameron. He continued, “It could be large scale, such as leading a group program or cooking everyone a meal, to something as simple as sitting with a resident and sharing stories over a cup of coffee.”

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James River Association’s ‘Kids in Kayaks’ program aims to establish a lifelong love for our waterways

The James River Association (JRA) will once again be providing their annual ‘Kids in Kayaks’ programs to get students in the Middle and Lower James River Watershed on the water for several days of adventure, appreciation, and education.

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The James River Association (JRA) will once again be providing their annual ‘Kids in Kayaks’ programs to get students in the Middle and Lower James River Watershed on the water for several days of adventure, appreciation, and education.
The program began at the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and Baltimore National Heritage Area in 2015. In 2018, Fort Monroe created a new chapter in collaboration with the James River Association and National Parks Conservation Association.

Kids in Kayaks exposes a diverse group of middle school-age students to kayaking while they also learn environmental topics covered in the 8th Grade Virginia Science Standards Of Learning (SOL). This program gives students practical life skills, and encourages them to enjoy their surrounding environment.

“It is essential for students to have hands-on experience within a wetland to truly understand the beauty and science that happens daily.” says Katie Ferrell, JRA’s Lower James Senior Environmental Educator. “We want students to have these opportunities to become responsible environmental stewards that value the James River. It is of utmost importance to teach our students the importance of keeping our waterways safe, clean, and viable for many generations to come; teaching our students to love the James River is our number one priority because if you love something you nurture it into the future.”

Student participants will experience a variety of fun activities that connect them to the river and teach them about the importance of natural resources. These activities include paddle trips, seine netting, an exercise called ‘Wetlands in a Bottle’ that drives home the infrastructure and importance of our wetlands, and several lessons based around watershed education.

“The James River Association is so excited to partner with Newport News Parks and Rec, James City County Parks and Rec, Newport News Public Schools, and Hampton City schools for another great year of kids in kayaks!” Ferrell continues. “This is a great way to safely get kids outdoors this summer. We cannot wait to get back on the water!”

Programs will be provided through Hampton City Schools, Newport News Parks and Recreation, Newport News Public Schools, James City County Parks and Recreation, and the Richmond Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club.

Ken Samuel, Education Manager for the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, reflects on past Kids in Kayaks programming: “A majority of the students had an absolute blast. They had a great time in the canoes racing against their friends. They enjoyed the pontoon boat and being able to handle different varieties of fish, and also being able to hold the crabs and know whether they were male or female. They also talked about lazily floating along the river, seeing the houses along the banks, and feeling the peacefulness of the water. It was a new experience for many of them and their confidence and stamina grew as the week went on.”

As part of the program, JRA is also partnering with the Richmond Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club to provide free pontoon boat trips for families on Saturday, May 15. JRA educators will facilitate the trips and teach participants about current issues facing the James River, and efforts to improve its health.

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Virginia colleges mull legality of mandatory COVID vaccine

Virginia universities plan a return to campuses in the fall, but there are questions if the COVID-19 vaccine can be mandated. 

Capital News Service

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By Hunter Britt

Virginia universities plan a return to campuses in the fall, but there are questions if the COVID-19 vaccine can be mandated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration only authorized the vaccine for emergency purposes, according to Lisa Lee, professor of public health at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The vaccine does not yet have full FDA approval.

The vaccine was authorized for emergency use, so people have to be given the choice to take it and be informed of the consequences if they don’t, Lee said.

“Many legal scholars have interpreted that as saying that people cannot be required to take a vaccine that is under an emergency use authorization,” Lee said. “They can be when it has full approval, so that’s where the hitch is.”

Rutgers University in New Jersey may have been the first to require the COVID-19 vaccination for returning fall students, according to Inside Higher Ed, a publication tracking higher education news. Since then, multiple universities have said the vaccine will be mandatory, with accommodations for documented medical or religious exemptions.

Colleges are on unfamiliar legal ground with the decision to require COVID-19 vaccinations, Inside Higher Ed reported.

Currently, Virginia colleges request documentation that a student was vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles and mumps.

Some universities in the District of Columbia and Maryland have announced a mandatory fall vaccine policy, including American, Georgetown, George Washington, Johns Hopkins and Trinity Washington universities.

Virginia universities are still contemplating the legality of requiring the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Virginia Tech is currently thinking about this decision and our university spokespeople will keep both the campus community as well as the larger community aware of what they ultimately decide,” Lee said.

Lee said it makes “a lot of sense to mandate the vaccine,” both from a public health and ethical perspective.

“We know that young people tend to gather and that’s what really spreads this infection,” Lee said. “In this pandemic, we have to take care of ourselves for sure, but we also have to take care of each other, and the vaccine helps us do both of those things.”

Mixed reaction to mandatory vaccine

College students across the commonwealth are making their opinions on the vaccine known, and many differ drastically. Grey Mullarkey, a communication arts major at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, said the vaccine should be mandatory for college students and employees.

“The only reason I think a student should not be required to have it to come back to campus is if they have an extreme allergic reaction to vaccines,” Mullarkey said. “I think that all the anti-vax propaganda and making the vaccine a political statement is dangerous and completely counterproductive.”

Mullarkey received a free COVID-19 vaccine through VCU. The process was “quick, easy, and not painful,” Mullarkey said.

Other students said the vaccine is too new to be mandatory. Dajia Perry, a psychology major at VCU, said the vaccine shouldn’t be required until it has undergone more testing.

“I feel like it’s good that we have a vaccine, but I also think the process was rushed,” Perry said. “As of right now, making it mandatory would make me more reluctant to take it because I would feel like it’s being pushed on me.”

Federal health agencies called for a pause of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this month due to reports of blood clots in some individuals who received it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA said these effects “appear to be extremely rare.” Virginia stopped administering the vaccine until the investigation is complete.

Colleges instead are offering employees and students two-dose COVID-19 vaccines. Virginia Tech had sufficient availability of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Mark Owczarski, associate vice president for university relations at Tech, stated over email.

“Virginia Tech has been working with the New River Health District to avail vaccines to all our employees and to all our students,” Owczarski stated.

Tech will continue hosting vaccination clinics until demand has been met, according to Owczarski.

VCU used its Moderna and Pfizer vaccine supply to honor J&J vaccine appointments on the day the latter vaccine was paused.

Fall transition to campus

Virginia universities are announcing a transition back to in-person classes for the fall semester.

VCU will offer in-person and online classes. The university will cap capacity in most buildings, and require employees and students to wear masks and complete a daily health survey.

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville will also return to in-person instruction. The university will provide more details about health and safety plans by July 15.

“After a year in which the pandemic disrupted nearly everything about the UVA experience, we are eager to get back to living, learning, and working together here in Charlottesville and we know you are too,” U.Va. President Jim Ryan, Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis wrote in a statement.

Tech is currently preparing for a fully in-person fall semester. President Tim Sands stated last month that he is hopeful for a “pre-pandemic experience.”

Many college students are also hopeful for a return to an in-person, college experience. Greta Roberson, a student and employee at George Mason University in Fairfax, said that she and her fellow coworkers were excited about the vaccine and were among the first at Mason to get vaccinated.

“George Mason is pretty liberal and open-minded, so I think the vaccine is a welcome thing for the Mason community,” Roberson said.

Mason plans to offer at least 75% of instruction on campus and to expand residence hall capacity to “near normal levels.” Masks and testing will still be required until public health guidance changes.

Forty percent of Virginians have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

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