Handley High School institutes zero phone policy

fiscal year 2021 budget

The Winchester School Board announced by email that John Handley High School (JHHS) students will be required to have any and all personal electronic devices off and out of sight during the enter day in the 2024-25 school year.

This new policy is in line with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s new executive order to establish cell-phone free education.

Now, Handley students will join students in K-8 who were already required to have devices off and away at all times during the school day.

This new policy is instituted so students will be required to keep their personal electronic devices in a designated area upon entering each classroom, and that their devices will need to be kept in backpacks or pockets in hallway transitions.

Any visible phones will be confiscated if visible. 

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Virginia’s Labor Force Participation Rate rises to highest mark since 2013

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that Virginia’s May Labor Force Participation Rate rose to 66.5%, the highest since July 2013.

The 0.3 percentage point increase from last month was coupled with another decline in the Commonwealth’s unemployment rate to 2.9%.

Of Virginia’s eleven industry sectors, all but one experienced over-the-year job gains.

Education and Health Services showed the most growth (+24,900) followed by Leisure and Hospitality (+23,300).

Mining and Logging was the lone sector with job loss, estimated at 100 workers.

Governor Glenn Youngkin spoke on the rise stating, “While we are encouraged by May’s strong employment numbers, we maintain our focus on creating a more competitive environment for business growth in the Commonwealth.”

To view the full press release from the Office of the Governor, click here.

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Governor Youngkin Announces More Than $24.7 Million in IRF Grants

Governor Glenn Youngkin today announced more than $24.7million in 22 Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) grants.

IRF grants provide gap financing for construction projects aligned with local and regional economic development

strategies, primarily in distressed communities.

“The transformation of older, vacant or blighted structures into productive, usable spaces is crucial to catalyzing

economic growth to create thriving communities,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “The Industrial Revitalization

Fund continues to be an important resource for those redevelopment efforts, spurring regional partnerships, economic

development and job growth across the Commonwealth.”

The Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) leverages local and private resources to achieve market-driven

redevelopment of vacant and deteriorated industrial and commercial properties. The program is targeted toward vacant

non-residential structures whose poor condition creates physical and economic blight to the surrounding area in which

the structure is located. Projects were reviewed and evaluated competitively, with an emphasis on those with a high

level of blight, identification of impediments to economic development efforts, alignment with regional or local

strategies, availability of matching resources, the level of community distress where the property is located and an

identified and feasible end use.

“These funded projects are transforming deteriorated structures that impede future economic development efforts into

small businesses, tourism destinations, and sources of community pride,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade

Caren Merrick. “Through IRF grants, we are able to make investments in both Virginia’s infrastructure and vibrancy

by supporting impactful projects, encouraging strategic collaborations, and fostering economic development efforts

across the Commonwealth.”

The 22 awarded projects will create over 600 jobs and leverage an additional $72.8 million in public and private

investment and include five mixed-use projects that will create nearly 200 new residential units. Since 2012, the IRF

program has funded 38 projects that have revitalized vacant, blighted buildings. These projects have generated more

than $121 million in other public and private investment and resulted in the creation of more than 485 jobs across the Commonwealth.



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Governor Youngkin Announces Budget to Accelerate Results for Virginians

Governor Glenn Youngkin addressed the Joint Meeting of the Senate Finance, House Appropriations, and House Finance Committee and announced his amendments to the Biennial Budget.

“Together we can accelerate results for Virginians and my administration is committed to going faster and getting the job done, so buckle up because we’ve got a lot to do,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “This budget provides record funding for behavioral health, law enforcement, education, economic development, and conservation efforts and also cut taxes to put more money in Virginians’ pockets.”

The Governor’s plan adds an additional $1 billion in tax relief, on top of the nearly $4 billion in tax relief passed last year, easing the tax burden of the typical family in Virginia by over $800 per year.

The Governor’s budget makes major investments to accelerate

results for Virginians:

  • Providing over $230 million to jumpstart the Right Help, Right Now plan to overhaul of behavioral health and substance abuse.
  • Launching Virginia’s Compete to Win strategy by investing in tax cuts, talent and workforce development and an unprecedented $500 million commitment to business ready sites.
  • Strengthening law enforcement and public safety by funding Operation Bold Blue Line, including $30 million to recruit 2,000 new law enforcement heroes, additional funding for prosecutors who are tough on crime.
  • Keeping Our Commitment to Virginia’s Children with new investments in reading and math and expanded resources for education, including $17 million for literacy and $50 million for teacher performance bonuses.
  • Offering unprecedented support to our ‘Quiet Heroes’ – teachers, nurses, and law enforcement, including $175 million for recruitment, expanded career pathways, and bonuses.
  • Making a historic investment in conservation and preservation, including $685 million for resiliency and the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Igniting the All-American, All-of-the-Above Energy Plan with a $10 million investment in nuclear and other zero-carbon technologies that produce reliable, affordable, and clean energy.


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Governor Youngkin Announces Transformational Behavioral Health Care Plan

Governor Glenn Youngkin today unveiled his three-year plan to transform Virginia’s behavioral health system, entitled “Right Help, Right Now.” This is a six-pillared approach to address our behavioral health challenges, encompassing crisis care, law enforcement burden, substance use disorder support, behavioral health workforce and service delivery innovation. The current behavioral health system is being overwhelmed and failing to meet the needs of Virginians in crisis with an outdated model of care that relies too heavily on hospitals. Year one of this three-year comprehensive plan invests over $230 million in Virginia’s behavioral health system, which will be proposed in the Governor’s budget amendments on Thursday.

“We are facing a behavioral health crisis across Virginia and the United States. This crisis is present throughout our society, at home, in schools and in the workplace. The three-year ‘Right Help, Right Now’ vision to revolutionize our behavioral health delivery system starts with a giant leap forward offered in my amended budget. It’s crucial that we get this moving, right now,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “We incorporated best-in-class models of behavioral health from across the country. This is a top priority for my administration, and we will not stop until we have a system that delivers the “Right Help, Right Now” to the people who need it most.”

“Right Help, Right Now’ is a bold step forward in our ongoing service to Virginians,” said First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin. “Prioritizing care for the most vulnerable, particularly our youth, is critical, and I look forward to supporting this cross-secretariat, transformational advancement in behavioral health.”

“This is a massive undertaking of the entire behavioral health system and continuum of care. Every Virginian needs to know who to call, who will help and where to go in a crisis, and we are working to rebuild a holistic system that does so,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel. “Typically, mental health efforts in the Commonwealth only last one year and target a single area of the problem. We have a multi-year plan that takes on every facet of the system. This is the first time Virginia is doing this.”

Governor Youngkin will propose a series of immediate steps to bolster his three-year transformation plan, including over $230 million in new funding for behavioral health in his upcoming budget on Thursday. The centerpiece of these proposals will include a $20 million proposal to fully-fund 30+ new mobile crisis teams to respond to calls to Virginia’s 9-8-8 hotline. With this new funding, the Governor’s commitment to behavioral health will top $660 million in the next fiscal year.

Included in the Governor’s budget is:

  • $20 million to fund 30+ new mobile crisis teams, meeting our statewide goal in the first year, to respond to 9-8-8 hotline calls
  • $58 million to increase the number of Crisis Receiving Centers and Crisis Stabilization Units, fully-funding the number of necessary centers in Southwest Virginia and Hampton Roads
  • $15 million to expand the elementary, middle, and high school-based mental health program to dozens of new communities
  • $9 million to expand tele-behavioral health services in public schools and on college campuses
  • $20 million for partnerships with hospitals for alternatives to emergency departments for crisis
  • $9 million for transportation and in-hospital monitoring by law enforcement and other personnel
  • $8 million for Serious Mental Illness housing, creating 100 new placements for SMI patients with extraordinary barriers to discharge
  • $57 million for 500 additional Medicaid Waiver Priority 1 Waitlist Slots and increased provider rates including respite and companion services
  • $15 million in opioid abatement initiatives including a campaign to reduce fentanyl poisoning among our youth

“I appreciate the Governor’s attention to improving our crisis system. As the Chair of the Behavioral Health Commission, I look forward to partnering with the Administration on these issues. We must meet the moment with urgency. People’s lives are at stake,” said Senator Creigh Deeds. Properly funded, staffed and located, regional crisis centers can play an important role in meeting a crisis, and removing stress from the rest of the system. Because every Virginian should have access to the quality services they need, regardless of their zip code. This is a step in the right direction, but we need to do more.”

“This plan will improve crisis care by expanding capacity for those in immediate need while also helping Virginians before they reach the crisis point. I’m hopeful that we can make a real difference for those who are most in need,” said Delegate Rob Bell.

The “Right Help, Right Now” Six Pillars:

1. First, we must strive to ensure same-day care for individuals experiencing behavioral health crises.

2. Second, we must relieve the law enforcement community’s burden and reduce the criminalization of mental health.

3. Third, we must develop more capacity throughout the system, going beyond hospitals, especially community-based services.

4. Fourth, we must provide targeted support for substance use disorder and efforts to prevent overdose.

5. Fifth, we must make the behavioral health workforce a priority, particularly in underserved communities.

6. Sixth, we must identify service innovations and best practices in pre-crisis prevention services, crisis care, post-crisis recovery and support and develop tangible and achievable means to close capacity gaps.

Watch the unveiling of the “Right Help, Right Now” plan to transform Virginia’s behavioral health system here.

Read the “Right Help, Right Now” plan here.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here

Governor Youngkin Launches Prompt Placement Task Force

Governor Glenn Youngkin today announced the launch of a major initiative to end the Temporary Detention Order (TDO) crisis.

The Prompt Placement TDO Task Force brings together government agencies, public and private hospitals, law enforcement, and other community partners to address the crisis facing people with TDOs who are waiting for behavioral health services.

“Improving our behavioral health system is at the top of my Day 2 Agenda. It is critical that we address the mental health crisis and prioritize caring for Virginians,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “I’m committed to making substantial progress in providing access to resources, caring for Virginians and reforming the TDO process.”

“Virginia’s current TDO process is bad for patients, care providers, families, and law enforcement who wait with these patients for a placement,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel. “This Task Force is a key step in improving the behavioral health system across the Commonwealth.”

“Virginia’s hospitals support strengthening Virginia’s behavioral health system to ensure patients have access to treatment when they need it.

Our hospitals are actively engaged in this work each day by providing inpatient and outpatient behavioral health care to Virginians across the state,” said Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton.

“We are deeply appreciative that Governor Youngkin’s ‘Prompt Placement TDO Taskforce’ is emphasizing treatment options for individuals who experience a mental health crisis and need urgent, inpatient psychiatric care.”

“This is the most dedicated effort we have seen in 25 years towards trying to address the problem of getting mental health beds available to people,” said Dana Schrad, Executive Director of the Virginia Chiefs of Police Association. “This effort is way overdue, and in the end, it should save Virginian’s lives and save much-needed law enforcement resources.”

“The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association is pleased to partner with Governor Youngkin to address the mental health crisis in Virginia.

We are looking forward to returning to a day in which those in need of mental health services get immediate attention, allowing law enforcement officers to return to their primary public safety duties,” John Jones, Executive Director of the Virginia Sheriffs Association.

In 14 months (June 2021 – July 2022), there were 21,099 TDOs in the Commonwealth. Individuals under TDOs are often in a crisis and unable to receive care due to a lack of appropriate resources and barriers in the TDO process.

The average wait time for an individual under a TDO to receive a placement and care has risen to 43 hours in Virginia.

The present TDO process has failed by not delivering care to patients when they need it most.

The process also contributes significantly to increased workforce burnout within healthcare and extensive hours devoted by our law enforcement.

The objectives of the Task Force include ending the TDO waitlist, finding rapid placements for individuals under a TDO, releasing police officers from spending significant hours away from patrolling the streets, ensuring the safety of all parties, and setting the stage for lasting systematic change to the way Virginia processes TDOs.

Janet Kelly, who successfully led the Governor’s Safe and Sound Task Force earlier this year, will head up this new initiative along with representatives from multiple agencies, community service boards, law-enforcement and hospitals.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Governor Youngkin donates his second quarter salary

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin in an email confirmed that he donated his second quarter salary to the Virginia Veterans Services Foundation (VVSF).

The VVSF dedicates and provides supplemental funding for Veterans programs and services throughout the state.

The Governor presented the funds at the Jones and Cabacoy Veterans Care Center in Virginia Beach.

The Governor reiterated at the presentation that he pledged to serve the Commonwealth without accepting a salary because he wanted to continue to give back to the state and help Virginians every way he can.

Back in April Youngkin donated his first quarter salary to Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Youngkin announced criminal justice grants

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced $37.5 million in grants to support local criminal justice programs in the Commonwealth.

$6.8 million will go towards 86 school resource officers and 15  school security officers to support over 2000 Virginia public schools.

Additional grant awards will include support for gun violence prevention programs, juvenile delinquency prevention programs, and more.

These grants follow the Uvalde school shooting which was the 27th school shooting in the United States this year.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Virginia’s unemployment rate the lowest in 2 years

An email from Governor Youngkin announced the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia in 2 years.

Virginia’s unemployment rate in March dropped 0.2 percentage points to 3.0 percent.

That seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 1.5 percentage points below the rate from a year ago.

The labor force increased by 19,532 with the number of unemployed residents decreasing by almost 5,000.

Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 3.6 percent.

Virginia had the second lowest unemployment rate in the southeast and 15 lowest in the nation.

Governor Youngkin said we are seeing green shoots in job recovery as we hit the lowest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth in nearly two years.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Gov. Youngkin signs Sunday Hunting legislation

An email from Governor Glenn Youngkin confirms that he signed a bill to allow Sunday hunting.

The law allows hunting on public land except within 200 yards from places of worship.

The legislation encourages Virginians to take full advantage of the many outdoor opportunities for hunters to enjoy their sport according to the Governor.

The Board of the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) acknowledged that sportspeople are a significant economic force that spends more than $1.5 billion, support more than 39,000 jobs, generates more than $1.17 billion in salaries and wages and $242 million in state and local taxes.

Giving hunters an extra day to enjoy their sport ensures that the DWR will have funds to continue their conservation work across the state according to the email.

The newly signed legislation takes effect July 1, 2022.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.