Henrico County has received 18 Achievement awards from the National Association of Counties (NACo), more than any other Virginia locality. The awards were presented at the 2008 NACo annual conference, held July 11-15 in Kansas City, Mo.
List of Award Winners
Begun in 1970, the annual National Association of Counties' (NACo) Achievement Award Program is a non-competitive awards program which seeks to recognize innovative county government programs called County Model Programs. Created as a part of NACo's New County, USA Campaign, the Achievement Award Program continues to embody the grassroots and local government energy the program was designed to promote. The main emphasis of the New County, USA campaign was to modernize and streamline county government and to increase its services to its citizens, goals that are still the main emphasis of the Achievement Award Program today.
County governments across the country, working alone and in cooperation with other governments at the municipal, state and national levels, continue to develop innovative and successful programs in a wide range of service areas, including arts and historic preservation, children and youth, community and economic development, corrections, county administration, emergency management, environmental protection, health, human services, libraries, parks and recreation, transportation, volunteers and much more. The Achievement Awards Program gives national recognition to county accomplishments, and has enabled NACo to build a storehouse of county success stories that can be passed on to other counties.
Conquer Your Clutter Support Group
In April of 2005, the County of Henrico Department of Building Construction and Inspections joined forces with the Department of Social Services to form a support group known as “Conquering Your Clutter”. The goal of this group is to encourage individuals to make changes when they recognize that the amount of clutter in their home has adversely impacted their lives. Understanding what clutter is becomes the first step. Clutter can be anything that is not needed, wanted, or used that takes our time, energy and space. Emotionally, residing in a cluttered situation can bring feelings of overwhelming frustration and even hopelessness.
Enterprise Zone: Vacant Building and Land Inventory (EZ)
The Enterprise Zone Vacant Building and Land Inventory was conducted by the Division of Community Development in the Department of Community Revitalization in 2007 as part of its Commercial Assistance Program. Like so many other localities, Henrico County has several older commercial areas experiencing increasing commercial vacancies, physical obsolescence, changing markets, inadequate infrastructure, and declining visual appeal. Enterprise Zone incentives have been essential in renovating a number of properties in the County. Given the success of the Enterprise Zone program, we decided to create the Inventory to identify vacant property within Henrico County's Enterprise Zones. A prerequisite for economic development is maintenance of a suitable inventory of sites for new and expanding commercial uses. The main objective of the Enterprise Zone Vacant Building and Land Inventory is to identify and target areas where vacancies are increasing, encourage investment in these properties, and encourage appropriate uses in the current market. The Inventory provides a focus to market EZ incentives to property owners, real estate professionals, businesses, and developers.
Agency: Community Revitalization
Healthy Lifestyles Initiative
“Healthy Lifestyles Initiative” began in November 2006 to improve the health of individual participants in Henrico County Drug Court (HCDC), and thereby improve community health. The project goal is to build access to health-care into existing HCDC program requirements. HCDC, which started in 2003, provides 12-18 months of intensive judicial supervision and treatment for adult felons who previously failed on probation due to substance abuse. The participant's prison sentence is suspended on the condition that he or she completes the strict requirements of HCDC. Many Henrico County agencies work collaboratively in HCDC: Sheriff, Henrico Community Corrections (Probation), County Manager, Police Department, Henrico Area Mental Health, and Commonwealth Attorney, as well as the state Court and the state Department of Corrections (Community Corrections). HCDC participants' overall health and family relationships have suffered from long-term drug addiction. This deterioration can sabotage otherwise successful strides in substance abuse treatment. “Healthy Lifestyles” provides access to a primary care physician, on-site health screening and education sessions once a month, assistance with dental care, transportation to appointments, and assistance with co-payments for medical care and prescriptions. The project also includes family involvement, through mandatory events focused on rebuilding healthy relationships between participants and family members.
Agency: Drug Court
Annual Energy Fairs – Changing the Energy and Environmental Culture
At the request of the County Manager, an annual energy fair for both schools and general government was established to create positive change in the municipality's energy-use culture. Each two to three day event focuses on individual actions and collective means to reduce energy use and to conserve the environment. Using targeted educational objectives and a fair-like environment, students from high schools and middle schools attend one of several day long events each October. For the students, each event consists of learning stations, presentation of alternative energy and environment solutions by vendors and students, and structured reinforcing games. For General Government employees, a day long session allows them an opportunity to discuss energy conservation and environmental consciousness with vendors and other government agencies. October was chosen because it coincides with National Energy Awareness Month. It is also where our sixth grader's school curriculum for energy and the environment is being taught.
Agency: General Services
Fitness Initiative: The 3Fs – Fitness, Fun, & Food
Henrico County is literally saving the lives of its employees not with Heimlich maneuvers, automated external defibrillators or other lifesaving heroics but rather one sweaty workout at a time with resistance bands, dumbbells, exercise balls, and the aid of two highly-qualified personal fitness trainers. In June 2006, the County began a fitness initiative with one fitness trainer and four fitness classes. A short 1 ½ years later, the fitness initiative grew to two trainers, over 200 fitness classes, over 11,000 participants and an overall strategy focusing on the 3Fs: fitness, fun and food! These fitness classes, after-work fitness parties, nutritional seminars, and personal training appointments are free to all County employees. But that's not all. Every employee also received a copy of a fitness DVD starring one of the fitness trainers and featuring County employees working out together. The results have been phenomenal. There is a culture change occurring that is not like anything that has occurred in Henrico County recently – a change that has great promise for the County and its employees. This growing fitness initiative is yet another example of Henrico County's commitment to its employees and its desire to remain a preferred employer in the region.
Agency: Human Resources
Promoting Tax Credits for Working Families
Beginning in 2004, the Fairfield Area Library and the Henrico County Extension Office, as a participant of the Greater Richmond Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition, formed a partnership to provide free tax assistance to citizens qualifying for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and to educate families about this under-used tax credit. The earned income tax credit is a special tax benefit for workers who file a tax return and meet low income requirements. The benefit could increase a federal refund by as much as $4,000 for families and $400 for individuals; these amounts are set annually by the IRS. Trained tax volunteers helped eligible taxpayers prepare and file returns at Fairfield Area Library for free. We are currently beginning our fourth tax season with this program, anticipating a significant increase in families taking advantage of this tax credit. To provide tax education and a financial boost to those who work at very low wages, the Library served as a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site through the Greater Richmond Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition. The Library offered free parking, free internet access to e-file returns, and the room setup which included a waiting area with bathroom facilities close by. These services and features provided handicapped accessibility to the building and privacy for the tax preparers and customers -- but most of all, a chance for a bigger refund! For three consecutive years now the benefit of this program is demonstrated by the growing number of eligible taxpayers taking advantage of the tax credit.
STEP – Skills Training for Employment
Many individuals with disabilities are unemployed but have a strong desire to work. The STEP (Skills Training for Employment) program is designed to help build skills in productivity, social interactions and stamina leading to employment. STEP melds the best from traditional day programs into a program with a total emphasis on Skills Building. The individuals who have entered the program were either unsuccessful in work programs or were not in a work program at all. What differentiates STEP from the traditional programs for individuals with disabilities is that it integrates the following elements into one program:
Since the program's inception, STEP has served 25 individuals with a ratio of one staff person to every 4 individuals. The results show the effectiveness of STEP - 93% of the program participants have increased their productivity, their hours worked and/or the wages earned compared to the same time frame the previous year.
Mental Health Support Services Volunteer Committee
Henrico Area Mental Health and Mental Retardation Services is committed to providing excellent services to our clients and the community at large. The agency has adopted and implemented the Recovery Model in our work with clients who are diagnosed with a serious, persistent mental illness. As part of the Recovery Model implementation, a new program was developed, the Mental Health Support Services Volunteer Committee. The objectives were to provide clients with an innovative way to integrate into their community, increase active participation in support services and empower clients. Moreover, it was also the hope that this committee could provide benefit to the entire Henrico County community. However, with no new mental health operational funds available and no ability to add to the current staff complement, we needed to get creative and we did. The volunteer committee provides clients with the opportunity to volunteer in Henrico County and the surrounding communities. In other words, clients are providing services, not just receiving them. In addition, the committee allowed staff and clients to work side by side in a manner not done previously to develop volunteer opportunities, encourage participation, develop and publish a quarterly newsletter, and complete the volunteer jobs. The committee was initiated with existing resources. Positive outcomes for clients include increased self-esteem, increased community roles, and empowerment. Other positive outcomes include benefits to the community as a direct result of the volunteer work completed, the reduction of the stigma of mental illness, and increased active participation of the clients in mental health support services.
Dialectical Behavioral Treatment Program
The Dialectical Behavioral Treatment Program was implemented beginning July 5, 2006 at our community mental health center. This is an evidenced based model serving our constituents with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) who struggle daily with emotional misery and suffering most commonly originating from childhood trauma. The program combines Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Eastern Mindfulness Practice as a means to stop their unhealthy coping styles and work towards a life worth living. Skills in the realms of Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Mindfulness Practice, are taught weekly in a classroom format. Individual Therapy is provided to help clients apply these skills to their real life situations and to stop life threatening behaviors such as cutting and burning themselves. Support is provided to clients outside of the center through phone coaching on use of DBT skills via on call staff available seven days a week.
Dating and Domestic Violence Program
Hermitage Technical Center faculty and staff have formed a partnership with Henrico County professionals and community professionals to educate students about dating and domestic violence. Guest speakers from our community volunteer their time and expertise to educate students on dating violence facts and resources. In addition, professionals teach students about how domestic violence directly relates to their technical center classes. The program originated out of a student's tragic death and a conference that faculty members attended. Over 785 students have benefited from the education provided by the dating and domestic violence program since 2004.
Premier Development Site Promotion Initiative
Henrico County, Virginia is a fast-growing locality just north of the City of Richmond, Virginia. The Premier Development Site Promotion Initiative is a multi-faceted approach to attracting and directing quality, mixed-use development to the County in the appropriate areas where adequate public services are available. Through the proactive promotion of sites already designated for potential development, the initiative strives to streamline the decision making process involved in the development process. The initiative combines the efforts of the County's Planning Department, Economic Development Authority, and Media Services Department. Materials used for the initiative include a display for trade shows, a booklet outlining the available sites, a web site, and an interactive mini-disc. The booklet, website, and interactive mini-disc provide a straightforward delivery method for disseminating information to perspective developers, elected and appointed government officials, and the general public. Using multi-media and focusing on trade shows and other gatherings of the development community, the County has raised their profile on both the local and national level. This approach provides a forum for exchanging information more readily.
Cemetery Identification Project
The Cemetery Identification Project began as a collaborative effort between the Henrico County Division of Recreation and Parks and the Henrico Historical Society. The project entailed locating, identifying, and recording private, family, church, public, and national cemeteries found in Henrico County. The information gathered was used to create a database that could be accessed by the general public for historical and family research and by the County staff for reviewing proposed planning and development projects within the County. The documentation was also used to publish a book titled Henrico County Cemeteries.
Agency: Recreation and Parks
Careers on Wheels
The purpose of the Career and Technical Education Careers on Wheels bus project is to introduce students to career options. Through the use of a converted school bus, elementary, middle and high school students have the opportunity to “experience” careers through hands-on learning activities. The bus is outfitted with equipment and reality-based projects designed to provide a better understanding about many career choices. All career clusters are represented, and the “onboard” teacher/career coach is available to provide further information about students' career interests. The project was a culmination of efforts by students, teachers, specialists, businesses and industries from design to completion. The students in the Career and Technical Education programs have had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience by participating in the project. It has also helped them understand how to apply the skills they have learned in their program of studies. The Career and Technical Education bus project is a valuable resource to students, teachers, and administrators as they explore career paths and options. Over $50,000 has been donated by our business and industry partners to make this project possible, with the only investment from the school system being a surplus school bus. Businesses are encouraged to participate in the project so that students have an opportunity to work directly with professionals in their field of interest.
College and Career Night
The Career and Technical Education (CTE) and School Counseling Services departments of Henrico County Public Schools work collaboratively in planning, coordinating, and hosting a unique, annual, county-wide College and Career Night. To accommodate all potential participants, the venue rotates among the eight comprehensive high schools year to year. The county's middle and high school students and their parents are invited to meet with representatives from over 135 colleges as well as representatives from county agencies, local businesses (approximately 50), and all branches of the military. The purpose of this event is to provide an information-rich experience by exposing middle and high school students to post secondary opportunities. Participating spokespersons have the opportunity to meet, promote, answer questions, and provide feedback to the attendees. The attendees have the opportunity for personal interaction with representatives from numerous avenues of higher education and work opportunities, gather brochures, set up appointments or interviews, and compare college, career, and military service options.
Data Quest Website
Henrico County Public School (HCPS) system is committed to creating and implementing data-driven programs and best practices to maintain a high quality of education for students. Complex interactions within the school setting and limited opportunities for teacher training in teacher preparation programs create challenges to the ongoing effective use of available information. In order to improve the administration of the educational program in Henrico County, upgrade the level of data-oriented training and facilitate instructional program decision-making, various types of demographic, program, and student outcome data are collected and provided to school leaders. With the amount of data available, principals and their data teams needed further guidance with the data analysis process and how to use findings to develop goals and strategies for the school's improvement plan on an ongoing basis. As a result, the Data Quest website has been developed to provide an innovative month-by-month “how-to” guide for using data analysis and interpretation tools. The intranet-based website can be accessed by the 70 school administrators and 3,760 teachers of HCPS to facilitate the ongoing monthly review of data and collaborative planning by utilizing guiding questions developed specifically for each data report. Use of the month-by-month framework has promoted a more frequent and comprehensive approach to data analysis within the schools and has lead to more detailed and thoughtful instructional decisions and planning.
Electronic Elementary Report Card
The Electronic Elementary Report Card Program (EERC) was designed and developed specifically to standardize and centralize the elementary report card data for Henrico County Public Schools. This web-based program was designed to allow teachers to enter grades and comments, note areas needing strengthening and indicate student reading levels. School-based coordinators can easily determine when teachers have completed data entry and can print report cards which reflect the highly customized format developed with the assistance of a 100+ parent, teacher, and administrator committee. EERC allows the school system to capture information electronically directly from the classroom teacher and output it in a customized format while offering the flexibility for data to be compiled and analyzed.
NBC 12/Free GED Testing Partnership
The 2000 data obtained from Census Scope for the state of Virginia estimates there are approximately 864,610 (18.53%) adults in Virginia who did not complete high school for various reasons, thus lowering their ability to obtain viable employment and earn wages above the poverty line and/or further their education at a post-secondary institution. In Henrico County, the data indicates there is a total population of 177,191 who are 25 years and older, with 23,715 (13.38%) people who have not achieved a secondary credential (high school diploma or General Educational Development). The goal of the Henrico County Adult Education Center is to provide services to this segment of the population so they can obtain a GED credential and increase their earning potential and/or further their education. During FY2005, our center served 675 adult students in classes for GED preparation and administered 806 official GED tests. In FY2006, we served 727 adult students for GED preparation and 861 GED tests were administered. With 13.38% of the community needing services to obtain this credential, the staff at the Adult Education Center is continually researching methods to increase the number of credentials awarded. Through research, we found that in FY2005 there were approximately 60 individuals who had not obtained a GED due to their financial limitations and the inability to pay the $43.50 official GED tests fee. We felt this barrier could be overcome by putting a comprehensive program in place to address these issues and ensure that our adult students completed their goal of obtaining a secondary credential.
Student Incentive and Retention
During FY2005, out of a total enrollment of 1167 adult students in our Adult Basic Education/General Educational Development (ABE/GED) Preparation and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs, 328 students left the program before completion. Completion is defined as advancing one or more educational levels according to the National Reporting System (NRS) or obtaining a GED credential. This data indicated that our retention rate had dropped from 78% of our adult students remaining in our program in FY2004 to 72% in FY2005. This was cause for significant concern as we work each year to increase our retention rate with a goal of 90% or more retention by the year 2010. It was necessary to take not just the data from the NRS system to develop a plan to address this issue, but to also survey our adult students to determine why they were leaving from our program before completion. Although the survey was completed on an informal basis, it still provided the necessary information to determine our best course of action. It became obvious that an incentive program of some type would be necessary in order to motivate our students to continue in the program until they reached their educational goal(s).