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Councilpersons Larson and Gray, Citing Lack of Transparency, to Vote Against Resolution Requiring Report and Recommendations on Police Funding Changes

RES. 2020-R047 would require the Chief Administrative Officer to produce a report that would give recommendations to transfer RPD budget to community mental health, substance abuse, and social service programs designed to perform such functions.

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First up the resolution in question.

RES. 2020-R047

To request that the Chief Administrative Officer cause to be prepared and submitted to the Council and the Mayor a report identifying funding in the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 General Fund Budget and the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Special Fund Budget appropriated to the Department of Police for mental health, substance abuse, and social service functions and that provides recommendations, to the extent permitted by law, for the re-appropriation and transfer of such funding from the Department of Police to other City departments and to community mental health, substance abuse, and social service programs designed to perform such functions.

Next up on the logic for voting against the measure.

Statement from Councilpersons Kristen Larson and Kimberly Gray

Today, Councilmembers Kimberly B. Gray and Kristen Nye Larson call on their fellow councilmembers to support an alternate path to police reform.

“Dangerous protests have happened in Richmond, including this past Saturday, and they are unacceptable. They include damaging small businesses that are trying to reopen, destruction of public assets, and acts of arson that could have seriously harmed residents and protesters alike. This kind of protest is unacceptable.

“Tonight, Richmond City Council is scheduled to vote on resolution No.2020-R047 to ask for recommendations from the city administration to defund the police. Because of the lack of any clear policy direction related to this proposed budget reallocation, and the surrender of our Council fiscal duties under the City Charter, we cannot support this resolution.

“To be clear, we support the creation of a Citizen Review Board and the implementation of a Marcus Alert system. To start this process, Council needs cost estimates and a list of possible policy and implementation issues to begin a public, accountable, and transparent budget process.

“We support efforts to have a third-party analysis of the Richmond City general fund budget, including Richmond Police Department budget.

“However, this resolution does not speak to policy initiatives and does not guarantee accountability in any budget reallocations.

“We support the following processes to consider reallocating funds in the budget to areas aligned with council and citizen priorities. Richmonders have expressed a strong desire to be involved in our budget process and we respect and want to honor their wishes:

  • First, as we proposed during the budget process in 2019, we again reiterate our support for a third-party audit of the Richmond City budget to go above and beyond the regular audit process.
  • We also ask for an amendment to resolution No. 2019-R051 that would include the General Fund budget in the participatory budget process. This process is an intentional, transparent, proactive budget process that includes public participation from the beginning. We support a budget process that is community driven.
  • Accountability measures should be built into any budget re-allocations. Moving taxpayer dollars without that accountability is reckless. We support funding programs that have clear goals, purpose, and accountability.

“We recognize that our city and our country need to transform the way we look at policing, public safety and our overall budget. We also recognize the revenue reality of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. We need to start with realistic revenue and COVID-19 cost estimates.

“We support a practical, accountable, and transparent process for our next budget cycle and we are ready and willing to work with the community to make this happen.”

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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4th District Small Business Virtual Town Hall

The meeting is tonight, November 23rd at 6 PM to discuss issues that local businesses face during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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City Councilwoman Kristen Larson is hosting a meeting tonight for small businesses in the 4th District.

Are you a small business owner living or doing business in the 4th District?  If so, please join me, the city’s Department of Economic Development, and other business owners at 6 pm tonight, November 23rd for a 4th District Small Business Virtual Town Hall meeting.  This is a time for us to hear from you about any issues you continue to face due to the COVID-19 pandemic so that we can learn how best to support you at this time. You can access the meeting through the below link or dial-in numbers. We will provide time for questions throughout the meeting.

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

+1 804-316-9457
Conference ID: 423 691 949#

Please note that if you are accessing the meeting online, you will be asked to share your name before being accepted into the meeting. Please keep your video off unless you are addressing the speakers during a time for questions.  Also, note that the chat feature will not be used or monitored for the purposes of this meeting.

If you are accessing the meeting by phone, you must press *6 to unmute yourself before speaking.

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Community

Diversity Richmond Providing Thanksgiving Day Drive-Thru

Food will be distributed by order of arrival, no early arrivals will be accepted.

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Thanksgiving Day Drive-Thru
Thurs., Nov. 26th
11:30 a.m. ’til 2:00 p.m.
Diversity Richmond parking lot
1407 Sherwood Ave., RVA 23220

You’re invited to swing by a pick up a free delicious hot Thanksgiving meal catered by Ms. Girlee’s Kitchen, courtesy of Black Pride RVA and the Laughing Gull Foundation.

Food will be distributed by order of arrival. We will not accept early arrivals. To ensure the health and safety of our volunteers and community members, we will adhere to COVID-19 CDC guidelines. Please remain in your vehicle and open the window of your vehicle when it’s your turn in line. All COVID-19 protocols are in place for all people preparing and handling the food. See you then!

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COVID-19 amplifies struggles with mental health, substance abuse – what Henrico County is doing about it

Since the pandemic started in mid-March, communities across the country have seen sharp increases in drug overdoses, suicides and requests for services. The trends have played out locally, with Henrico County already recording 41% more drug overdoses this year than in all of 2019.

RVAHub Staff

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The stresses and strains of the COVID-19 pandemic have been enough to test anyone’s well-being.

But the inescapable challenges – from social isolation and financial uncertainty to concerns about one’s health – can quickly overwhelm those struggling with substance use and mental health, said Leslie Stephen, a program manager with Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services (MH/DS).

“There have just been compounding issues,” she said. “When there are so many issues to deal with, a person’s capacity to take on more is reduced.”

Since the pandemic started in mid-March, communities across the country have seen sharp increases in drug overdoses, suicides and requests for services. The trends have played out locally, with Henrico County already recording 41% more drug overdoses this year than in all of 2019.

“These numbers understate the full problem because many overdoses are not reported,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said in a recent letter to the Board of Supervisors on plans to open a detoxification and recovery center. “In recent years, there have been more deaths in Henrico from overdoses than from car accidents, homicides or suicides – and this trend will be true again in 2020.”

Similarly, the number of individuals prescreened for hospitalization because of mental health concerns was up 13% from July through September compared with the same period last year.

In addition, orders to place someone in emergency custody rose by 15%. One of every five individuals held on temporary detention orders was later admitted to state facilities, instead of treated locally. That’s higher than normal, in part because fewer beds are available due to the pandemic’s need for physical distancing.

MH/DS bolsters mental health, substance use services during COVID-19

MH/DS, which serves Henrico, New Kent and Charles City counties, has been working to ensure its services remain available and accessible during the pandemic while the county also develops an enhanced treatment model for substance use.

Staff have been conducting appointments mainly by phone or video, although in-person meetings are available if necessary. For more information, go to henrico.us/mhds or bouncebackhc.com. To access services, call (804) 727-8515.

The challenges from COVID-19 have been particularly acute for those who rely on regular, face-to-face support from clinicians and peers. Now, many of those sessions are held virtually.

“You think about folks in recovery, it really is that interaction that makes a difference,” MH/DS Executive Director Laura Totty said. “It’s that daily support that they get. The isolation necessitated by COVID-19 has been a real challenge.”

For many, the pressures and strains will only intensify as the state has imposed tighter measures following a surge in coronavirus cases ahead of the holiday season, which is often a difficult time for those with mental health and substance use challenges.

“I worry that many people may struggle when they’re unable to engage in activities that have given them comfort and support in the past,” Stephen said.

William Pye, a peer specialist with MH/DS, leads a
virtual REVIVE! training session on the administration
of Narcan, a drug that can temporarily reverse the
toxic effects of opioids and save the life of someone
who has overdosed.

In September, the agency also began offering rapid access to medication-assisted treatment for individuals addicted to opioids. After their same-day access assessment, clients are connected with a prescriber for treatment with Suboxone, which curbs symptoms of withdrawal during detoxification.

MH/DS also is offering nine virtual trainings per week on REVIVE!, a free program on how to administer Narcan to save someone after an opioid overdose. Participants receive the medication by mail. To sign up, call (804) 727-8515.

To enhance its mental health services, MH/DS has partnered with the National Counseling Group to provide mobile support to individuals in crisis and avoid hospitalizations whenever possible.

Henrico advances new strategies to help those in recovery

Apart from its work in the pandemic, Henrico continues to look for new and better ways to help those struggling with substance use.

The county recently established a program to cover two weeks of housing costs for qualified individuals when they are admitted to a certified recovery home. So far, 13 recovery residences have applied for the program, which is known as CHIRP or Community-based Housing for Individuals in the Recovery Process.

“This gives the individual a chance to live in a safe, sober environment while they start to work on their recovery,” Totty said.

In addition, Henrico is advancing its plans to build a 24-hour detoxification and recovery center that would provide voluntary, medically supervised recovery services for adults.

The estimated 17,000-square-foot facility is planned on Nine Mile Road, near MH/DS’ East Center, and would have initially 12 to 16 beds. It would be licensed by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and managed by MH/DS with support from public and private partners.

The center was recommended by the Recovery Roundtable, a county work group that spent eight months looking at ways to reduce overdoses and strengthen recovery resources in the community.

“The Recovery Roundtable concluded the lack of access to detoxification is a significant gap and a barrier to recovery,” Vithoulkas said in his recent letter to the Board of Supervisors. “In fact, our jail has become the default provider of public detox in the County, having performed nearly 2,000 detoxes last year.”

Henrico has issued a request for proposals for consulting services as part of its planning for the detoxification and recovery facility. Funding for design and construction are expected to be considered as part of the county’s fiscal 2021-22 budget.

With the pandemic causing so much disruption, Stephen said it has been inspiring to see MH/DS staff confront each challenge and find innovative ways to provide the services the community desperately needs.

“It’s also amazing to see our clients so committed to working on their recovery,” she said. “Even with all that COVID-19 has thrown at them, they are determined to clear the hurdles that are in their way.”

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