Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam concludes Southside, Southwest VA swing

ralph northamThis afternoon Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam finished a two-day barnstorm trip through Southwest and Southside Virginia, his first as the Commonwealth’s lieutenant governor. The trip included a variety of visits related to the lieutenant governor’s priorities around economic growth, workforce development, mental health services, early childhood health and education, and medicaid expansion.

Northam kicked off his swing by delivering a keynote address at the 2014 Southwest 2020 Summit, a regional convening of business, community, nonprofit, and government leaders seeking to collaborate to address some of the region’s biggest challenges. The two-day tour also included visits to five megasites (Pathway Park in Chilhowie, Progress Park in Wytheville, Wildwood Park in Carroll County, Commonwealth Crossing in Henry County, and Berry Hill in Danville); the Volvo plant in Dublin; and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville. As a member of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), Northam is acutely aware of the need to ensure Virginia continues to compete as the best state for business.

Friday included a visit with the Danville-Pittsylvania Community Service Board, known for its innovative use of Telehealth technology to connect local patients with psychiatrists in Charlottesville. As Chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health Services and Crisis Response, Northam is committed to identifying gaps in the system that need attention from lawmakers, and identifying and promoting best practices in the behavioral health field.

This was followed by a lunch hosted by the Danville-Pittsylvania Smart Beginnings network at Northside Preschool. As a practicing Pediatric Neurologist at the Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters in Norfolk, the lieutenant governor is passionate about the health and education services available to the youngest members of the Commonwealth, which have long lasting impacts on the child, their families, and the larger community.

The discussion with education, community, business, and local government leaders touched on the successes of the local Smart Beginnings network and the challenges the community faces in ensuring all children in the region are prepared to enter kindergarten.

The afternoon also included an on-site briefing by Duke Energy, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality about the ongoing efforts to clean up the Dan River, following the February coal ash spill in North Carolina.

Finally, the Lt. Governor toured the Danville Regional Medical Center and discussed healthcare issues related to providing care to the uninsured in the community, as well as access to psychiatric care. There are approximately 6,000 currently uninsured individuals living in Danville and Pittsylvania who would be eligible for coverage if the gap is closed through Marketplace Virginia or medicaid expansion. Access to quality and affordable healthcare for the more than 400,000 low-income Virginians without coverage remains the most pressing policy concern to the Lt. Governor, who has been an outspoken supporter (May, April, and February) of closing the coverage gap.

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