A proclamation recognizing the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Virginian's With Disabilities Act was issued by Gov. Mark Warner (D) March 21.
Signed in 1985 by former Gov. Charles S. Robb, the law was a landmark in the protection against discrimination in employment, housing, education, voting transportation and access to public accommodations.
A federal Americans With Disabilities Act was approved five years later.
Today, nearly one million state residents are protected by the Virginians With Disabilities Act.
Although Warner admits the state and country have come a long way in the last 20 years, he is still fighting for equal rights for all citizens.
Last year Warner signed Executive Order Number 61, which established the Olmstead Initiative to comply with a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring states to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate to meet the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.
Warner also signed legislation his first year in office creating the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy — this strengthened the role of the agency in protecting people with disabilities by making it independent of the executive branch.
This summer, the Department of Rehabilitative Services — a state agency providing comprehensive programs and services to help people with disabilities maximize employment and independence — will coordinate a one-day symposium on the Virginians With Disabilities Act.
The event will bring together people with disabilities, community and business leaders, family members, advocates and government officials to evaluate the act's accomplishments and develop an action plan for future progress.
For more information visit www.vadrs.org.
Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers Needed
A spring recruitment drive has been launched by the Fairfax County Health Department, in cooperation with the Fairfax County Citizen Corps Council, to add 3,000 more volunteers to its Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) by June 30.
To date, approximately 3,000 medical and non-medical volunteers are signed up and receiving training.
The recruitment drive is concentrated on recruiting seasoned, experienced managers for key leader roles in the MRC.
The all-volunteer MRC is designed to augment the capacity of the public-health system to respond to large-scale events related to bioterrorism or widespread epidemics.
During a public-health emergency, MRC volunteers would staff dispensing sites where vaccination or medication would be provided to county residents.
In a worst-case scenario, this could mean providing for more than 1.2 million people in three to five days. To accomplish this, 54 teams, comprising 232 people per team, are needed.
Volunteers are needed from both medical and non-medical professions.
Despite the name of the program, the majority of the volunteers sought are individuals without a medical background.
Especially needed are seasoned, experienced managers to fill MRC leadership positions, including incident coordinator, branch director, volunteer coordinator and unit leader.
All volunteers will receive training to fulfill their responsibilities.
Those wishing to volunteer may register online at www.fairfaxmrc.org — click "new user" — or by calling 703-246-2433, TTY 703-591-6435.
Department of Health Seeks Resident Input
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is asking residents and health-care providers for their views on the public-health policies and services that are provided to women, infants and children in the state.
As a part of a five-year needs assessment and plan, the resident input is required for the continuation of the $26 million Maternal and Child Health Block Grant that the health department administers.
Residents and health-care providers are encouraged to log on to http://www.vahealth.org to complete an online survey by April 15.
Survey participants will be asked to identify what they think are the five major health issues facing children, teens and women and which aspects of VDH's efforts to better the health status of these populations need improvement.
The Web site also includes a slide presentation that outlines the purpose and history of the block grant and details national and state performance measures and priorities.
Residents and health-care providers are also invited to provide input at regional public hearings scheduled across the commonwealth.
A hearing in Northern Virginia will be held April 22 in Annandale at the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, 7535 Little River Turnpike, Suite 100.
The last needs assessment, conducted in 2000, identified several areas of need including the problem of obesity among children and the ongoing need for screening of childhood diseases.
Other findings include the need to improve access to prenatal care for low-income women and to reduce ethnic and racial disparities in health status.
VDH encourages Virginians to share their opinions because with more input, it will be better able to identify effective services to protect the health of mothers and children.
The health department distributes funds from the block grant to agencies and organizations in the state to help improve the health of mothers and their children. The funds are used to assure access to quality maternity and child health services, especially for low-income families.
For more information about the online survey or public hearings, log on to http://www.vahealth.org.
To learn more about the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, visit http://www.mchb.hrsa.gov and click on "Programs."
World Tuberculosis Day
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is recognizing March 24 as World Tuberculosis (TB) Day by actively promoting TB awareness through continuing education programs for medical providers and the general public.
World TB Day honors the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch presented his discovery of the tuberculosis bacteria to physicians in Berlin, Germany.
Today, VDH and various organizations around the world countries observe this date to acknowledge and promote awareness of this deadly disease.
Globally, eight million people develop TB and, despite the fact that TB is highly curable, over two million die from it each year.
It is imperative for VDH to maintain efforts to eliminate this disease from Virginia and contribute to the United States Healthy People 2010 objective of reducing the occurrence of TB to 1.0 case per 100,000 in population.
In 2004, Virginia reported a slight decrease in the number of new cases of persons with TB disease.
The 329 new TB cases represented a one percent decrease from the numbers reported in 2003 — 332 cases.
Virginia's rate of 4.4 per 100,000 demonstrates that tuberculosis remains a significant public health concern.
Of the 329 cases of TB disease in Virginia — divided almost equally between men and women — the highest number of cases occurred in the Northern Virginia Region, followed by the Eastern and Central regions.
While TB disease occurs in persons of all ages, a high number of cases persist among persons in their economically productive years — 25 to 44 years of age.
Individuals in the 25 to 44 year age bracket are also at a higher risk for contracting HIV infection, and TB and HIV co-infection can make both diseases more difficult to treat.
Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that is acquired through prolonged, close contact with a person with active, infectious TB disease. TB can be cured by the appropriate oral anti-tuberculosis medications for a prescribed length of time — typically for 6-9 months.
When an individual is suspected of having active, infectious TB disease, the local health department will initiate testing of individuals who have been in close contact and spent a significant amount of time with a suspected TB patient.
These close contacts receive the tuberculin skin test and medical follow-up.
A person who has not been exposed to someone with infectious TB disease does not need to be tested for TB infection.
Learn more about tuberculosis online by visiting the Division of TB Control's Web site, http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epi/tb, or by calling its office at 804-864-7906.