Roanoke Valley Collective Response Receives $1.4 Million for Peer Recovery Network

Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission
Contact: Elizabeth K Elmore
(540)343-4417
eelmore@rvarc.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Roanoke Valley Collective Response Receives $1.4 Million for Peer Recovery Network
Grant will create full time positions to work alongside Police, Fire and EMS 

Roanoke, VA (August 8, 2022)The Roanoke Valley Collective Response has been awarded a $1.4 Million grant to develop a Peer Recovery Network. The award comes from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration and will support the development and expansion of the network over the next four years, creating three full time positions; including one coordinator and two Certified Peer Recovery Specialists (CPRS) who are embedded with EMS and law enforcement during overdose reversal calls. The Collective Response’s proposal was identified as a project of  National and Regional Significance and will allow Peer Recovery specialists to work alongside first responders across the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany region.

“This grant is a vital investment in growing the ecosystem of recovery,” Niles Comer, Director of the Collective Response said. “Evidence supports the power of involving people with lived experience in addiction and recovery – peer recovery specialist – as the vanguards to promoting recovery and addressing addiction. This grant will work seamlessly to build out a Peer Recovery Network across community stakeholders of the Collective Response while working specifically with law enforcement and first responders to help in addressing the rise in drug overdose calls.”

The Peer Recovery Network will connect Peer Recovery Specialists, provide resources for peers, and develop a workforce network connecting peers to the employers who may be in need of their services and to motivate and assist businesses in the hiring of people with lived experience with Substance Use Disorder and involvement in the criminal justice system.

“Having a peer recovery specialist on substance abuse-related calls has been proven to remove communication barriers and move our patients into a more sustainable effort recovery program,” said Jeremy Hartman, Captain for Salem Fire EMS. “The successful connection to services has been vital to reducing the number of overdose-related calls for service.”

This initiative will provide assistance to EMS and law enforcement while simultaneously seeking to reduce repeat calls. The peer recovery specialists will serve as “care coordinators” after the hand-off from EMS and law enforcement and assist with reducing any barriers to accessing treatment.  introduce the individual into the spectrum of recovery.

The Roanoke Valley Collective Response works across systems to find new and effective strategies to solve the opioid and addiction crisis. Collective Response members span law enforcement, Emergency Medical Services, healthcare, local and state government, education, community support organizations, faith community, business community, and individuals and families personally touched by addiction.  The Collective Response was formalized as a program of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission in 2021 through American Rescue Plan Act funds from the City of Roanoke.


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A program of the Roanoke Valley Alleghany Regional Commission, the Collective Response is a multi-sector initiative working collaboratively to create recovery-oriented solutions to the addiction crisis across the Roanoke Valley.
The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC) is one of 21 regional planning agencies in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Member governments include the counties of Alleghany, Botetourt, Craig, Franklin and Roanoke; the cities of Covington, Roanoke, and Salem; and the towns of Clifton Forge, Rocky Mount and Vinton. The mission of the Regional Commission is to be a leader in driving collaboration and strategy within our communities on issues that are critical to the economic growth, quality of life, and the sustainability of this region.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT SOUGHT ON AN AMENDMENT TO THE ROANOKE VALLEY TRANSPORTATION PLAN

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) is accepting comments on amendments to the Roanoke Valley Transportation Plan.

You can view the projects and take the survey here.

Comments will be accepted until August 17th, 2022, and a public hearing will be held at 1:00 pm on August 25th at 313 Luck Avenue SW, Roanoke VA.

For accommodations call (540) 343-4417 or E-mail: bhill@rvarc.org. Hearing impaired persons call 711 for access. The RVTPO strives to provide reasonable accommodations for persons who require special assistance to participate in public involvement opportunities.  The RVTPO fully complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in all programs and activities.

 

Regional Commission Announces Affordable Housing Awards

Regional Commission Announces Affordable Housing Awards
 Grant will fund up to 71 housing units in Covington and Roanoke

Roanoke, VA (July 21, 2022)The Regional Commission announced today the recipients of $1.35 million in funding from its Virginia Housing PDC Development Grant to create new affordable housing in the region.  Landmark Asset Services, Inc, Restoration Housing, Roanoke City Redevelopment and Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity of the Roanoke Valley will build a total of 71 affordable housing units in the region.

“Affordable housing is a critical issue for the livability of our region,” said RVARC Executive Director Jeremy Holmes, “we are pleased to partner with our community and Virginia Housing to increase housing opportunities for the region’s citizens.” 

In 2021, Virginia Housing (VH), formerly Virginia Housing Development Authority, awarded $40 million in funding statewide to Virginia’s 21 Planning District Commissions to create or continue regional housing development programs. Virginia Housing has granted the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission $2 Million dollars to create affordable housing units in our region. 

David Bustamante, Executive Director of the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority also expressed excitement. “As our region grows so does our need for affordable housing. This is an opportunity for us to expand not just our housing ecosystem but rise to meet the growing opportunities of the region itself.”  

The Virginia Housing funds represent the largest grant that RVARC has ever administered and is a significant investment in the region. The grant program follows on the heels of last year’s comprehensive regional housing study, which identified housing needs such as gaps in market supply for certain income brackets and barriers to building and rehabbing in certain areas. The commission developed recommendations such as creating effective zoning and coordinating at the regional level to develop key infrastructure. The administering of this grant brings to fruition the commission’s recommendation that partners collaborate to meet the region’s housing needs. 

For more information contact Elizabeth Elmore

Public Comment Sought on an Amendment to the Roanoke Valley Transportation Plan

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) is accepting comments on the proposed Amendment #5 to the Roanoke Valley Transportation Plan (RVTP). The amendment seeks to consider projects with increases in cost greater than 10%.

The current RVTP, as shown below, reflects the two subject projects covered under this amendment.

JurisdictionProject TitleProject LimitsProject DescriptionEst. Cost in Year of Expenditure
Town of VintonGlade Creek Greenway, Phase 2BGearhart Park to Walnut AvenuePaved 10’ wide greenway from Gearhart Park to Walnut Avenue.$476,000
Roanoke CountyRoanoke River Greenway – Blue Ridge Parkway Crossing along Highland RoadBlue Ridge Parkway and Highland RoadConstruction of 0.30 miles of Roanoke River Greenway underneath the Blue Ridge Parkway, connecting bicyclists and pedestrians safely to other funded sections of the Roanoke River Greenway.$708,258

The table below lists the projects and the proposed cost estimate increases.

 

 

Comments will be accepted until June 15, 2022 and a hearing will be held at 1:00 p.m. on June 23, 2022 at the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission offices at 313 Luck Avenue, SW, Roanoke, VA.

We have developed a short survey to gather public input on the proposed amendment. The survey can be taken here.

For more information on the draft amendment, contact Bryan Hill at (540) 343-4417 or by E-mail at bhill@rvarc.org.

Public Comment Sought on an Amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021-2024 Transportation Improvement Program

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) is accepting comments on  the proposed Amendment #2 to its Fiscal Year 2021-2024 Transportation Improvement Program. The amendment seeks to add a new project of $288,000 in federal funds for Roanoke County to operate its CORTRAN service for seniors and people with disabilities next year.

Comments will be accepted until May 19, 2022 and a hearing will be held at 1:00 p.m. on May 26, 2022 at the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission offices at 313 Luck Avenue, SW, Roanoke, VA.

We have developed a short survey to gather public input on the proposed amendment. The survey can be taken here.

For more information on the draft amendment, contact Bryan Hill at (540) 343-4417 or by E-mail at bhill@rvarc.org.

Live Staking – An Innovative Way to Improve Water Quality

In March, staff had the opportunity to volunteer with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation installing live stakes along a section of Kerrs Creek in Rockbridge County. Live staking, as it’s referred to, is a cost-effective conservation technique used to stabilize streambanks and reduce erosion during rain events. The process involves cutting limbs from a live tree or shrub, and then replanting the limbs, or stakes, in areas with little vegetation.

So, wait. Does planting these things really work? They don’t even have roots!

Well plants are pretty incredible organisms! These stakes have the ability to sprout roots to establish a new tree. This article from Penn State Extension does a great job of explaining how the whole process works.

Live stakes are dipped in water to help prevent stakes from drying out.

It was a really great event to be involved in. Staff worked with students from Washington and Lee who were looking to give back to the community and take knowledge gained in the classroom and apply it to real-life projects. It was great to get to know some of them and talk about their experiences as students looking to get into the environmental field after graduation. In total, the group planted over 300 (!) live stakes in just under four hours.

The planting is a small part of a larger effort being done to improve riparian forest cover in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Riparian areas serve as the interface between a waterway and the adjacent land. These areas play a critical role of ensuring that aquatic and terrestrial systems are connected.

A healthy, undisturbed riparian zone will be forested and at least 50 feet wide. These zones are able to ‘buffer’ impacts of land use on a stream system by capturing nutrients and stormwater that may runoff during a rain event. Riparian zones can also stabilize streambanks, help control stream temperatures, and provide food for aquatic organisms. They provide habitat for birds and waterfowl and can serve as wildlife corridors that allow for animals to safely move from place to place and limit habitat fragmentation.

Stabilize streambanks: Tree and plant roots are great at holding soil in place. This is especially important along streambanks that allow water to rip into loose sediment and unprotected soils. By having root structure in place, soil is prevented from washing downstream after rain events.

Stakes were planted along this cut bank to help with stabilization. Tree plantings in the background will help establish a wide buffer.

Control stream temperature: Tree canopy provides shade over a stream to help cool it during hot, summer days. This is especially important if the stream is home to cold water species, like Eastern Brook Trout, that are sensitive to warmer temperatures. Cooler water holds more dissolved oxygen, which is vital for maintaining a diverse community of organisms.

Food for aquatic organisms: Not only will fish be treated to spiders and other bugs that happen to fall off a tree limb, but the tree parts themselves will serve has food for aquatic macroinvertebrate species, or aquatic insects. Some of these species are referred to as ‘shredders’, meaning they consume coarse particulate organic matter like leaves. Shredders also help provide food for insects who are called ‘collector-filterers’. These species collect the bits and pieces of organic matter, like the shredded leaf material that got away, that are caught up in streamflow. These insects are the main food source for many fish species.

Habitat and wildlife corridors: Many bird and waterfowl species find sanctuary in forested areas next to waterbodies, and it’s not just your common sparrow. Bald Eagles prefer to live along waterways so they can have easy access to their favorite meal – fish. Riparian zones allow eagles to build nest in trees located in close proximity to waterbodies. Wildlife also use waterways to navigate between landscapes. The natural ‘roadway’ allows for animals to travel from different areas to access food, escape predators, or reach breeding grounds. Even some aquatic insect species, specifically case-making caddisflies, will use twigs and leaves from riparian trees to make cases for protection and molting.

There are many benefits to having these areas forested and undisturbed. Much of them have been cleared for agricultural purposes or development, but there is an ongoing effort to restore riparian zones and their functions.

This particular planting was funded by one of the many buffer restoration programs available for landowners and communities. The James River Buffer Program offers the chance for landowners to install trees in riparian areas for no cost. The program is spearheaded by three organizations: the James River Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Virginia Department of Forestry. Landowners in the Middle and Upper James Watershed are eligible for the program. This area is generally defined as the section of the watershed west of the Fall Line in Richmond extending to the headwaters in Highland County. Projects on public lands are also eligible. You can find out more by visiting the website here. Be sure to connect with the program coordinator if you are interested in volunteering!

Volunteers worked in pairs to successfully plant stakes.

Flooding – It Impacts All of Us

Flooding is an issue that seems to have a regular segment on local, state, and national news stations. From King Tides in Norfolk to riverine flooding in Buchanan County, Virginia is not unsusceptible to these events, and the impacts are felt by all parts of the community.

I recently came across a video that shows the sheer ferocity and spontaneity of flooding events. In Queensland, Australia, heavy rainfall devastated multiple cities and towns with water that turned shallow streams into ripping rivers. The most amazing, and terrifying, part of this whole event is the quickness in which streams swelled well beyond their banks and spilled high into the floodplain.

Time-lapse of flooding in Australia

So how does this happen?

Flooding occurs when a large amount of rain falls over a landscape and discharges lots of water in a short period of time. Natural stream systems are designed to mitigate the impacts of heavy rainfall events in a number of ways. Wetlands act as sponges that soak up stormwater and slowly release it into a stream. The sinuosity (how much a stream meanders) of a stream slows the water down and provides more channel to handle larger flows, and floodplains – areas adjacent to streams – allows for stormwater to spill over stream banks to decrease the amount of water that is flowing downstream. All of these mechanisms are important ways a stream system limits the impacts of flooding.

So, if these stream components are effective at mitigating flood events, then why does flooding seem more common and severe?

Part of the problem is attributable to climate change. Climate change will cause changes to local and regional weather patterns that will impact the frequency of high rainfall events. How much a region’s precipitation pattern will change is continuously being studied, and models help show what can be expected for a region. Models show that the Roanoke Valley region can expect to see more rainfall and more severe weather events, which means more flooding.

Climate change is not the only factor. How we manage our landscapes and watersheds – areas that drain to a certain waterbody – has huge implications on flooding size and frequency. In a forested, undisturbed watershed, the landscape is better adapted to handle a heavy rain event. Stormwater is able to infiltrate the ground easily, leading to less runoff that sends rainwater directly to the stream. In the event that flooding occurs, floodwaters are able to spill over into the floodplain to spread out and slow down.

In watersheds with lots of impervious cover, rainwater does not have the chance to infiltrate the soil. Instead, stormwater rushes off hard surfaces and into the stormwater system. This increases the volume of water being discharged into a stream during a rain event. The impact of land use change can easily be seen on a stormwater runoff hydrograph.

1. Image from the Alabama Cooperative Extension website.

The graph is simple: more hard surfaces mean more stormwater runoff, which correlates to higher stream flows during rain events. The result of this change in hydrology is what leads to “flash floods”.

2. Flooding in downtown Roanoke, August 2021.

So, this seems like a big problem, right? How could we possibly fix this?

It is nearly impossible to return to a predevelopment stage. We live in a complex society that requires us to have roadways, commercial and residential buildings, and facilities that are essential for providing community services. There are ways, however, we can manage runoff from developed areas and decrease the discharge of stormwater runoff.

Green infrastructure is a popular way to manage stormwater runoff for multiple reasons. Green infrastructure takes advantage of natural processes to capture, store, and release stormwater runoff. They are effective at reducing the amount of runoff that contributes to the rush of discharge responsible for flash flooding. By collecting water with green infrastructure, we allow for the water to slow down, infiltrate the soil, and slowly release into streams like it would in an undisturbed area. They also capture pollutants, like trash and gas, from impervious surfaces before they have a chance to degrade water quality. This is important for maintaining healthy water quality levels in waterways where people enjoy activities like swimming, floating, and fishing. Green infrastructure helps create a buffer between developed and natural landscapes that are essential for limiting our impact on local ecosystems.

3. Biopond collects stormwater runoff from a parking lot in Roanoke.

We can also encourage our local governments to adopt policies and ordinances that support land conservation. It is important that we take advantage of already developed lands and repurpose them to support the demands of our communities instead of developing natural spaces.

Virginia is working hard to improve flood resiliency. In 2020, Virginia joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. RGGI is a cap and invest initiative that serves as a way for Mid-Atlantic states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector. Through the effort, states are able to generate funds to support environmental programs.

Proceeds from RGGI auctions help support programs like the Community Flood Preparedness Fund (CFPF). CFPF is designed to support regional and local efforts to reduce the impacts of flooding. Auctions are held quarterly, and the first auction of 2022 generated $72.4 million (!) for Virginia. The most recent round of grant awards was announced in December 2021. The list of funded projects can be found here; see if you can find a project in your community.

The next time it rains, follow the stormwater running off your driveway and funneling down the storm drain. Think about how it impacts the waterway closest to your community and what you can do to help. It could be as simple as installing a rain barrel on a downspout or planting a tree. The efforts we make as individuals and together as a community can improve the health and livability of our region.

Covington Seeks Applications for Small Business Coordinator

The City of Covington seeks a dynamic Small Business Coordinator to lead recovery efforts from pandemic impacts for small businesses in the City.  This emphasis on small business recovery will take place in both Olde Town (downtown) as well as the small businesses located in shopping areas, highway and street corridors, and neighborhood businesses as well.  In addition to this unique job opportunity, our area offers a modest cost of living, numerous quality-of-life features, and exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities.

For more information, click here. The position will remain open until filled.

Roanoke Valley Transportation Investments

Update: The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization Policy Board reviewed public input and approved requests for additional Surface Transportation Block Grant funding on existing projects on February 24, 2022. Summary of public input on existing projects

The Policy Board reviewed public input and approved requests for Surface Transportation Block Grant funding on new projects on March 24, 2022. The Policy Board also reviewed demographic information collected. Summary of public input on new projects and demographic information

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) receives about $6 million per year from federal and state transportation programs to directly select and fund transportation projects in the Roanoke Valley via the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) program. This is different from other funding programs because these projects don’t compete at the state or federal level. The RVTPO received 14 requests (3 existing projects requesting additional funds for cost overruns and 11 new requests) totaling over $43 million. The RVTPO anticipates at least $17 million in STBG funds for 2023 – 2029.

View the proposed investments in an interactive map here. The STBG financial plan (fiscal year 2022-2027) to accommodate requests for additional funds for cost overruns on existing projects is available here. The STBG financial plan (fiscal year 2023-2029) to accommodate new requests is available here.

 

 

Request for Applications for Partnership in the RVARC Housing Development Program

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC) is soliciting partnership applications from applicants for RVARC’s award of Virginia Housing Planning District Commission housing funds from its member localities and/or non-profit and for-profit affordable housing developers.

SPECIFIC GOALS
Funds awarded through this solicitation of partners must contribute to the development of at least 20 units of housing affordable to individuals/families at or below 80% Area Median Income. All projects awarded funds, whether owner-occupied or renter-occupied units, must be habitable by 6/30/2024. The goals of the RVARC during the administration of this grant are:

  • Increase stock of affordable housing units in underserved areas of the region.
  • Focus on first-time homebuyers.
  • Integrate incomes and housing by providing mixed-use and/or mixed-income rental developments.
  • Create a strategic process for identifying and investing in housing needs with a regional approach
  • Support creative, collaborative projects that meet additional social needs as:
    • Accessibility
    • Aging in Place
    • Mixed housing/income neighborhoods
    • Recovery Housing
    • Universal Design

Sealed proposals will be received until 5:00 p.m., EST on Friday, March 18, 2022. A full copy of the RFA may be obtained here.

Questions, revisions, and corrections to the RFA can be found here.

Contact Bryan Hill at bhill@rvarc.org for more information.