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5 things you need to know today…
- Trial over Virginia’s abortion laws begins – While other states have enacted near-total abortion bans in recent months, Virginia has its own battle beginning this week as a federal trial over the state’s abortion laws gets underway. Pro-choice advocates are suing to strike down four state laws that restrict abortion, including requirements that clinics meet strict licensing standards and that patients get an ultrasound at least 24 hours before an abortion. Pro-choice advocates claim that the laws, which have caused more than 20 clinics to shutter in the last seven years, are meant to restrict abortion access.
- Virginia community college tuition rate will not increase – Following the lead of many of Virginia’s four-year public colleges, the State Board for Community Colleges has decided to maintain the current in-state tuition rate for the 2019-2020 academic year. The decision will hold tuition at the existing rate of $154 per credit hour. In exchange for holding the rates steady the schools will receive additional funding from the General Assembly.
- Virginia transforming its behavioral health system – Virginia’s behavioral health care system has long prioritized crisis care over preventative treatment, but that’s starting to change, according to a new report from the Virginia Mercury. In an effort to improve the quality and availability of care for patients, the state is changing Virginia’s Medicaid program so it provides more access to outpatient and preventative care for those who need behavioral health services.
- Arlington County approves new approach to increase affordable housing stock – Faced with a growing affordable housing crisis, the Arlington County Board voted to loosen zoning regulations and allow many homeowners to build backyard cottages. The hope is that small backyard homes will increase the county’s supply of available affordable housing.
- Roanoke inches closer towards operating syringe exchange program – Faced with high HIV and hepatitis C rates, the Roanoke City Council approved a non-profit syringe exchange program aimed at reducing infectious diseases and increasing access to drug treatment. Assuming the Virginia Department of Health approves the program, Roanoke would become the fourth locality in the state with a needle exchange, following the likes of Richmond, Wise County and Smyth County.