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Community-based doula project launches in Henrico, aiming to provide free support to pregnant women of color

Eligible individuals who apply for the program receive free Doula care through Birth in Color RVA or Urban Baby Beginnings.

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Richmond and Henrico Health Districts have implemented a fund to support Black- or African American-identifying pregnant individuals living in Henrico to access local community-based Doula organizations. Eligible individuals who apply for the program receive free Doula care through Birth in Color RVA or Urban Baby Beginnings. The doula program is made possible by the Greater Richmond Regional Maternal Child Health Taskforce, which is composed of public health, birthing, parenting, and equity experts. The program was launched in March and is funded through a grant sponsored by the Henrico County Office of Emergency Management.

A community-based doula is a trained labor support person who comes from the same culture and background as the person giving birth. As trusted community members, community-based doulas perform home visits, help connect persons giving birth to local social services, and provide a holistic approach focusing on prenatal and postnatal health.

“We are intentional about addressing health disparities for black people… Doulas can help improve the maternal health experience and address health disparities by reducing the impacts of racism and racial bias on pregnant and postpartum people,” explains Kenda Sutton-EL, Full Spectrum Doula Trainer and Executive Director, Birth In Color RVA.

This program seeks to eliminate health disparities and offer an empowering birth experience. Promising evidence indicates doulas lessen the chance of low birth weight and infant/maternal mortality. Working with a doula has also been associated with more spontaneous vaginal births, higher satisfaction with the birth experience, increased breastfeeding initiation, and shorter labor.

“Perinatal community-led programs help address barriers by providing a culturally congruent web of support centered around respectful and quality reproductive care,” explains Stephanie Spencer, Registered Nurse, and Executive Director, Urban Baby Beginnings. “For over 27 years, Urban Baby Beginnings has addressed barriers… We are honored to continue expanding our community-based support programs.”

Interested individuals can learn more about the program by visiting Henrico County’s website or apply using this screening form. Due to limited resources, acceptance into the program is not guaranteed.

The community-based doula fund is just one of the initiatives coming out of the taskforce; the group seeks to improve maternal and infant health outcomes and eliminate disparities through focusing on doula care, family planning, and integrative care models.

“Our partners in this work are knowledgeable, experienced, and committed to serving our communities,” says Whitney Tidwell, Maternal Child Health Nurse Coordinator at Richmond and Henrico Health Districts. “It has been an honor to work with them.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the taskforce can visit the website or email [email protected].

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Business

WATCH: Richmond Region Tourism’s new marketing campaign proves Richmond “speaks for itself”

The campaign will run June 1, 2023, through June 2024, and is expected to reach more than 80 million potential travelers through connected TV in selected markets in the East Coast and southern United States, as well as on social media, digital display ads and out-of-home digital billboards in select markets.

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Richmond Region Tourism has launched a new, multi-channel $2 million marketing campaign to inspire travel to the destination. “Speaks for Itself” is a first-of-its-kind campaign for the Richmond Region, targeting potential travelers in East Coast and southern U.S. markets through an unconventional, sound-focused video approach centered around the genuine and authentic character of the region. It also marks a historic opportunity for Richmond Region Tourism to invest more than double its normal budget for tourism marketing.

A 60-second video preview was unveiled to the local hospitality community at Richmond Region Tourism’s 2023 Tourism Awards and Annual Meeting on May 11. The campaign video takes inspiration from popular ASMR content on social media to communicate what it’s like for visitors to experience the Richmond Region – a destination marked by an understated authenticity that even locals find hard to define.

“The Richmond Region speaks to every visitor in different ways,” said Jack Berry, President & CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “Trying to find a pithy slogan to sum up the region simply wouldn’t do it justice, which is why we’re so excited by this campaign—it provides a platform for local voices and experiences to shine and encourages visitors to take in the many diverse sides of the region.”

The campaign also reflects an effort of community collaboration across the Richmond region. Six jurisdictions including the City of Richmond, Chesterfield County, Hanover County, Henrico County, Colonial Heights and the Town of Ashland contributed funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) via Virginia Tourism Corporation, which must be used specifically for tourism recovery efforts.

“It’s the little moments that make a visit to a destination special, and this campaign embraces and celebrates those experiences in a uniquely Richmond way,” said Richmond Region Tourism Board Chair Dan Schmitt. “They could happen at a buzzy restaurant downtown or in a peaceful park in Henrico. This campaign is remarkable in how it can be embraced and adapted across the region’s many jurisdictions.”

Richmond Region Tourism partnered with ChamberRVA and the Greater Richmond Partnership to review a competitive set of proposals from more than a dozen marketing agencies and selected Richmond-based agency Padilla to create and deliver the campaign.

To ensure that the campaign authentically reflected the Richmond Region, Padilla interviewed more than 60 local leaders and community members during campaign concepting including the BLKRVA and OutRVA committees, business owners, government officials, museum staff, college administrators and more. Keeping with the “Speaks for Itself” theme, local influencers also are being tapped to create unique ASMR-style videos that will be promoted in the campaign’s target markets.

The campaign will run June 1, 2023, through June 2024, and is expected to reach more than 80 million potential travelers through connected TV in selected markets in the East Coast and southern United States, as well as on social media, digital display ads and out-of-home digital billboards in select markets.

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New federal tailpipe rules would put stricter limits on Virginia’s heavy truck emissions

As Virginia continues down the road of speeding up the transition from gas-powered passenger vehicles to electric ones, new rules proposed by the federal government could also accelerate electrification of the state’s heavy trucks.

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By Charlie Paullin

As Virginia continues down the road of speeding up the transition from gas-powered passenger vehicles to electric ones, new rules proposed by the federal government could also accelerate electrification of the state’s heavy trucks.

This April, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed stricter tailpipe emissions limits for passenger vehicles as well as for heavy trucks. The new limits for passenger vehicles will have little impact in Virginia: As a result of 2021 legislation, the state follows stricter standards for light vehicles set by California, which will mandate that 100% of sales of new passenger cars be electric beginning in 2035.

But because the 2021 legislation only applies to vehicles weighing 14,000 pounds or less, Virginia must follow the federal emissions standards for heavy trucks, which if finalized will apply to trucks beginning with model year 2027.

While the EPA would allow manufacturers to choose their own method of meeting the stricter emissions standards, the agency projects up to 50% of vocational vehicles — heavy trucks used for particular industries or occupations — in model year 2032 could use electric batteries and fuel cell technologies.

“By proposing the most ambitious pollution standards ever for cars and trucks, we are delivering on the Biden-Harris Administration’s promise to protect people and the planet, securing critical reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensuring significant economic benefits like lower fuel and maintenance costs for families,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in a statement.

But Virginia Trucking Association President and CEO Dale Bennett said his group has some concerns about the faster pace the new rules would set for the transition to electric vehicles.

The trucking association expects that under the new rules, fleets will become 100% electric by 2055, given the roughly 30-year lifespan of a heavy truck.

With the trucking association counting about 45,870 heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers in Virginia in 2021, Bennett said more rapid electrification of the fleet will require significant buildout of the electric grid.

He also voiced concerns about charge times, which can take about two hours to power a truck to travel about 200 miles, compared to about 15 minutes to fill up a truck with diesel to cover 1,200 miles; battery weight; and cost. While a new diesel truck can cost about $180,000, typical electric trucks go for $400,000, he said.

“We need to go at the speed of right, not at the speed of light,” said Bennett.

Trip Pollard, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, however, said the stricter standards will improve Virginia’s air quality. He pointed to recent research from the Union of Concerned Scientists estimating exposures to particulate matter from tailpipe emissions, which has been estimated to be responsible for about 95% of the global public health impacts from air pollution.

“EPA’s proposed federal heavy duty vehicle emissions standard will help to clean Virginia’s air — improving our health and our environment,” Pollard said by email.

California has more stringent regulations for heavy trucks, but Virginia hasn’t adopted those, Pollard noted. And while he acknowledged truckers will see an increase in upfront costs for vehicles, he said they can be recouped in three to seven years through savings on gas and maintenance.

If finalized, the rules will be implemented by heavy-truck manufacturers, including Volvo’s New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia, and its Mack Trucks facility just outside Roanoke.

Dawn Fenton, vice president of government relations and public affairs at Volvo Group North America, said the company supports the transition to zero-emission vehicles and has committed to 100% of its products being fossil free by 2040. Because the Dublin plant makes both electric and diesel heavy truck engines, the facility will be able to continue producing vehicles while adjusting to a faster transition, Fenton said.

“We see that we’re moving toward a zero-emission vehicle future,” Fenton said. “Our biggest concern is by far the question about the availability of charging infrastructure to be able to enable fleets to be able to adopt them.”

Fenton said “a lot” of Volvo’s current electric truck sales are happening in California, which has stricter heavy-truck emissions regulations and has also created incentives for charging infrastructure buildout and electric vehicle purchases.

In Virginia, House Republicans this past session for the second time killed legislation from Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington, to create a fund that would provide money for rural infrastructure development. The General Assembly has also repeatedly blocked proposals for state rebates for electric vehicle purchases in Virginia, although incentives are available from the federal level through the Inflation Reduction Act.

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Business

Virginia ABC officials say they’ve ‘automated’ liquor lotteries to prevent future errors

Virginia liquor officials said they’re taking steps to automate the random lottery process for rare bottles after an outcry from bourbon enthusiasts who say the state bungled a recent lottery and allowed some entrants to win multiple bottles despite steep odds of that outcome occurring naturally.

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By Graham Moomaw

Virginia liquor officials said they’re taking steps to automate the random lottery process for rare bottles after an outcry from bourbon enthusiasts who say the state bungled a recent lottery and allowed some entrants to win multiple bottles despite steep odds of that outcome occurring naturally.

The leadership of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority discussed the lottery issues Tuesday morning during a meeting of the authority’s board of directors.

ABC officials told the board a problem occurred in the last lottery — which had more than 40,000 entries — due to a “breakdown in Excel sorting,” referring to the commonly used data processing software Microsoft Excel. The authority was using Excel to sort through lottery entries and determine the winners.

“I can’t speak to the inner workings of Excel. It sorted some of it and didn’t sort some of the rest,” said ABC Director of Internal Audit Mike Skrocki.

The authority also offered assurances that the possibility for human or spreadsheet errors would be reduced under a new system that will require less human oversight to pick winners at random. Officials indicated the new system will be implemented immediately and is expected to be formally announced when the next round of lottery results go out.

The previous system, said ABC Chief Digital and Branding Officer Vida Williams, allowed lottery entrants to enter multiple times using different home and email addresses. Though winners are asked to show identification to verify their address when they go to pick up a bottle they won, ABC officials said the old system appeared to let one person submit 241 different lottery entries.

“Our old process was very manual,” said Skrocki. “You could put Sesame Street as your address. It’s going to take it.”

Officials said they weren’t sure if allowing multiple entries contributed to some people seeming to defy the odds to win multiple bottles. But addresses will be more diligently verified going forward, they said, by checking them using location data from Google. The authority will also be implementing a stronger review process to check the results for statistical anomalies, officials said.

“The automated process does dramatically decrease the opportunity to game the system,” Williams said.

The lottery controversy is the latest rare-liquor drama for ABC, whose internal logistics data was offered for sale online last year to help bourbon hunters get a head start on figuring out which ABC stores would be getting highly sought-after products that aren’t usually available. The two men involved in the scheme, one a former ABC employee, both pleaded guilty to one felony charge related to computer trespassing.

[Read more: Neither man convicted in scheme to sell ABC bourbon info will face active jail time]

The authority’s explanation of what Williams called a “hiccup” hasn’t satisfied many of its customers. Statements ABC has posted on Facebook about the matter have been followed by a flood of skeptical responses, many questioning why the state should even be in the business of running liquor lotteries.

“In addition to the government not being able to properly run a booze raffle, a booze raffle exists,” wrote one Facebook commenter.

Another respondent quoted a line about propaganda from George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears,” the commenter wrote. “It was their final, most essential command.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, authority officials reiterated their belief that the flaws in the recent lottery didn’t appear to be intentional mischief by ABC employees and noted that anyone employed by the authority is barred from participating in the lotteries.

“We believe in equitable access to all of the products that we sell,” Williams said.

Williams also noted that most lotteries ABC conducted within the past year did not see similar problems, calling that “part of that story that is missing.”

“It made us seem like we’re a lot more egregious in oversight than we actually have been,” she said.

Some ABC board members pressed for more information on exactly where the problem occurred and how the new system would prevent it from happening again.

Board Chair Tim Hugo, a former Republican delegate, asked if the authority’s new system was something already being used successfully elsewhere or a system designed internally that would be more like a “beta test.”

ABC officials said elements of the new system are commonly accepted industry standards without going into specifics about the technology powering the new process.

“If you don’t know exactly how it happened other than that there were vulnerabilities … how do you know that this solution of dealing with the addresses stops the problem?” asked ABC board member Mark Rubin, who previously served as a senior adviser to U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., when Kaine was governor.

Authority officials said the new process will also involve a new, algorithmically driven way of picking winners at random, removing the need for manual sorting of Excel spreadsheets.

“We run the randomization through a statistical process,” said Williams.

Rubin noted he had gone to law school because statistics weren’t his strong suit.

“So your confidence level is very high that this problem is eliminated?” Rubin asked.

Williams replied: “My confidence is exceptionally high.”

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