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Virginians rally for those with mental disabilities

Amy Jones, 38, had a 4.0 GPA in school but dropped out after her insurance stopped covering the costs of her medication. She suffers from a mental health disorder and substance abuse.

“I ended up self-medicating, and I ended up here in Richmond at a facility center, which is helping save my life, because it’s helping me to get back on track, get my medications again, so that I can be productive again,” Jones said.

On Monday, she joined about 100 other people at the Bell Tower on Capitol Square for a rally organized by the Coalition for Virginians with Mental Disabilities. Participants encouraged legislators to improve services for people with mental disabilities.

For instance, Jones stays at Rubicon Inc., a substance abuse and mental health facility. But it may shut down for lack of funding. Jones said the best way to help people like her is not to put them in jail but to provide preventive facilities and help fund medication.

“Don’t throw me in jail. Don’t shut down things I need, like Rubicon. Don’t cut off my medications. I stand here today just like a normal person, only due to the fact that I have medications,” Jones said.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli spoke at the rally. He said that when he was a senator from Fairfax, he pushed to expand services for Virginians with mental disabilities.

As a general rule, people must live in an institution to receive Medicaid funding; however, the state can grant waivers to provide assistance for disabled residents. But there is often a waiting list for mental retardation waivers and developmental disabilities waivers.

Cuccinelli said he has advocated granting more Medicaid waivers.

“What we need to do is have systems in place that reduce the likelihood of mental illness getting worse, so we are helping people and reduce the frequency of things like Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech,” Cuccinelli said, referring two of the nation’s worst mass shootings.

Tori Purdy’s 13-year-old son has autism. She came to the rally to thank legislators for increasing the number of developmental disability waivers.

Because of the waiver, Purdy said, her son can live outside of an institution – and her family can live like any other.

Cuccinelli said he fears a backlash against people with mental disabilities because of shootings like the one last month in Connecticut.

“You get something like Sandy Hook, where you get an Adam Lanza, who’s not well, and people sort of project Adam Lanza across all people suffering from mental illness,” Cuccinelli said.

“That’s just not an accurate projection. Most people suffering from mental illness are victims of aggression, of aggressive behavior and violence. They aren’t committers of it.”


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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