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Members of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) newly created Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response met for the first time Jan. 7 in Richmond. The membership comprises leaders from the mental health field, law enforcement communities, the judicial system, private hospitals, and individuals receiving mental health services and their families.

Four local leaders have been tapped for the 37-member task force: Sen. Janet Howell (D-32); Kaye Fair, Emergency Services director of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board in Fairfax; Thomas Wise, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church; and Rhonda VanLowe of Fairfax, who represents families affected by mental illness.

The group is reviewing existing services and challenges in Virginia’s mental health system and will make recommendations, including legislative and budget proposals, for critical improvements to mental health procedures, programs and services.

“We must ensure that people experiencing mental health crises are connected immediately to needed services to help ensure their safety and the safety of those around them,” McDonnell said. “It is critically important that we expand existing mental health treatment services as needed in order to help prevent mental health emergencies from happening.”

The system’s shortcomings came to light when Austin “Gus” Deeds, son of Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-25), stabbed his father multiple times before killing himself at their Bath County home in November. Gus Deeds had been released from an emergency custody order hours earlier after the local community services board said it was unable to locate an available psychiatric bed in the area within the six hours allotted by law.

McDonnell created the task force shortly after the tragedy.

The task force will send initial recommendations to the governor’s office no later than Jan. 31, with additional recommendations made on an ongoing basis. The task force will provide a final report on all aspects of the executive order to the governor no later than Oct. 1.

Women’s group gives $3,800 in emergency aid

Our Daily Bread last month received a $3,800 check from members of 100+ Women Who Care Northern Virginia, to help relieve the plight of low-income residents in the county. The members of 100+ Women Who Care selected the nonprofit during the organization’s November meeting.

“We are very thankful for the support of 100+ Women Who Care Northern Virginia,” said ODB Executive Director Lisa Whetzel. “This generous contribution enhances our ability to serve the needs of Fairfax County families who are in financial crisis. … In fact, at least seven families will avoid eviction this winter because of this donation.”

Our Daily Bread provides short-term financial assistance to the county’s working poor and to those in crisis, easing the way toward self-sufficiency.

“Our Daily Bread is a great example of a local, volunteer-run organization that is making a measurable impact in Fairfax County,” said Traci Richards, co-founder of 100+ Women Who Care Northern Virginia. “Our members are proud to support such an outstanding organization that helps individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet.”

100+ Women Who Care Northern Virginia organized in 2012 under Richards’ leadership. Four times each year, the women come together for one hour with $100 blank checks and select a local nonprofit worthy of a collective $10,000 donation.

The group’s next meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6, at Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library at 7584 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. For more, visit

Alexandria food pantry has new manager

Jose Flores has been named manager of the Cynthia N. Hull Food Pantry at United Community Ministries in Alexandria. He was previously the assistant pantry manager.

“Each weekday at our food pantry, an average 80 to 100 families visit for food assistance,” said Richard Dobber, UCM director of Social Services. “Supplemental groceries help them preserve limited income for other critical needs, like housing and utility bills.”

Across Fairfax County, more than 76,000 people are considered food insecure; more than 40 percent of those are children. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an individual who is food insecure does not have access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

Through its many programs, United Community Ministries has become a leading provider of human services in Fairfax County. Last fiscal year, UCM provided life-changing assistance to 11,538 individuals from 4,392 households in the southeast portion of the county.

Fairfax executive leads state nuclear energy authority

The 17-member board of directors of the newly formed Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority has elected as its chairman Marshall Cohen of Fairfax.

Cohen is vice president of Government Affairs and Communications at The Babcock & Wilcox Co., a government contractor and international provider of energy products and services.

“I appreciate the opportunity to lead the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium in its first year as we work to promote Virginia’s rich, diverse and important nuclear industry and encourage additional collaboration and partnerships here in the Commonwealth,” Cohen said. “Nuclear energy is responsible for thousands of good-paying jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity in Virginia.”

Governor names 10 to state positions

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has appointed these local residents to state boards and commissions.

Advisory Board on Massage Therapy: Jermaine Mincey of Alexandria, patent examiner with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Certified Interior Designers, Land Surveyors and Landscape Architects: Daniel Santos of Vienna, senior technical adviser with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Board of Long-term Care Administrators: Erna Hochstein of Herndon, retired from Washington Gas Co. and a stained glass artist with Virginia Stained Glass Co.

Board of Veterans Services: Patrick Murray of Alexandria, retired U.S. Army colonel.

Christopher Newport University Board of Visitors: Mark Rodgers of Burke, principal of The Clapham Group.

Citizen’s Advisory Council on Furnishing and Interpreting the Executive Mansion: Susan Brown Allen of Alexandria, former first lady of Virginia (’94-’98).

The Library Board: Carolyn Berkowitz of Burke, managing vice president of Community Affairs at Capital One.

Safety and Health Codes Board: Millagro Rodriguez of Falls Church, occupational health and safety specialist with the American Federation of Government Employees.

Virginia Land Conservation Foundation: John Paul Woodley Jr. of Burke, consultant/principal at Advantus Strategies LLC.

Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority: Joan Bondareff of Alexandria, principal, The SPECTRUM Group and Of Counsel, Blank Rome LLP.