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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.

This year, Henrico County is proud to note that it has been recognized by NACo with seven Achievement Awards.

List of Award Winners

1. Make Dollars From Cents With An Energy Management Program

Many organizations begin energy management programs only to find that diverging departmental interests overwhelm them. These diverging interests could eventually result in either failure or ineffectiveness of the program. With the support of the County Manager and all key departmental directors, this has been avoided at the County of Henrico. By the development of a simple but clear Energy Management Plan, crafted by all members of the Steering Committees and signed into county policy by the Manager, the County has a sustainable, measured roadmap to reducing energy costs and use in all of its facilities. The importance of Henrico’s Energy Plan is not that the county has one, but how it was developed and initiated by the departments that needed it the most. A review of electricity accounts allowed the County to take advantage of optimum rate schedules, eliminate inactive electric meters and take advantage of grand-fathered credits under a curtailment program, resulting in significant savings. Participation in energy fairs, development of fact sheets and newsletters for school children and employees and formation of a Rebuild America Partnership are key features of the program.

Agency: Department of General Services

Contact Us: Department of General Services

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2. Opiate Recovery Program!

Faced with an alarming increase in heroin and other opiate-based medication, addiction rates and poor treatment results from our existing services, Henrico Area Mental Health & Retardation Services (HAMHRS) launched the Opiate Recovery Program (ORP!) in October 2003. In partnership with private methadone treatment providers in the community, the ORP! program has significantly improved client retention and satisfaction, treatment plan compliance and recovery at no additional costs to the agency. The ORP! approach is to foster a warm, caring and nonjudgmental environment. Staff members make every effort to communicate a message of acceptance and optimism beginning with the initial contact. ORP! focuses on strengths and accomplishments, noting and positively reinforcing incremental positive changes in behaviors while gently challenging counterproductive decisions and behaviors. Utilizing existing staff and resources, HAMHRS developed a unique approach to working with this challenging population based on respect, relationships and retention

Agency: Henrico Area Mental Health & Retardation Services

Contact Us: Henrico Area Mental Health & Retardation Services

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3. Outreach Storytime at Hilliard House

While the Henrico Public Library has always been extremely successful in offering a variety of activities for children of all ages, staff recognized that there was a need to reach the underserved segments of the population. Despite the strong attendance at storytimes, interactive craft activities, musical programs, puppet shows and other events, it was clear that many children were not able to visit a county library to enjoy these educational programs. The best option for reaching this group was to have qualified library staff visit facilities in the community that served residents who were unable to utilize traditional library services. Hilliard House was identified as an ideal partner for library outreach efforts. As a facility that provides temporary housing for single women and women with children, almost half of the residents are children. The shelter is able to accommodate up to thirty residents, most of whom have suffered homelessness due to a crisis such as domestic abuse or financial difficulties and often lack transportation. Children from these traumatic backgrounds, in need of support and stability offered by Hilliard House, would clearly benefit from positive exposure of regular storytimes. The storytime program at Hilliard House is the only library outreach program offering regular onsite storytimes at a homeless shelter in the Richmond metropolitan area. It has reached children from twelve months to twelve years. Parents have reacted very positively to the program and are pleased by the Library’s efforts to introduce reading and storytelling to their children.

Agency: Henrico Public Library

Contact Us: Henrico Public Library

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4. Community Participation in the Redistricting Process

Henrico County has experienced residential and commercial growth for more than a decade. This growth has been fostered by the quality of the county’s public school system, as well as other public services. Hence, the county’s student enrollment has increased nearly 10,000 students since 1995. Accordingly, when new schools are constructed or others reach maximum capacity, school boundaries must be redrawn to accommodate the community’s rapid growth. Although public input has always been included during the redistricting process, the inclusion of community input meetings in the process provided residents with additional opportunities to express their concerns and suggestions, especially prior to proposal development. These meetings took place for the first time in fall 2004 and involved school administration personnel, School Board members and community residents. The public input meetings supplied parents with information about the redistricting process and served as a public forum for residents to express their comments and suggestions. This new component of the process enhanced community understanding and involvement in the rezoning process. Additionally, due to the community input meetings, public feedback was available for consideration in the beginning stages of proposal development.

Agency: Henrico County Public Schools

Contact Us: Henrico County Schools

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5. Ensuring Professional Development: An Integrated HR Strategy

How does a nationally recognized employer and residence of choice remain competitive now and in the future? Henrico County literally has the answer: its employees. The Henrico County Department of Human Resources has made professional development a priority by helping to promote a culture where development is a “must” and not an option. This unique integrated approach to professional development included an intense marketing effort directed not only towards County managers and supervisors, but employees and the surrounding community as well. While employee development and training is a staple in Henrico County, special emphasis was placed on offering enhanced training opportunities to all County employees. Supervisors and managers were given tools and resources necessary to facilitate professional development conversations with their employees and changes to the performance appraisal process will now hold supervisors accountable for their employees’ professional development. The results have been phenomenal. When professional development is integrated with human resources strategies, integrated with the County Manager’s mission, integrated with training programs and integrated with individualized learning plans of employees, it can be nothing less than a priority and a sure formula for success.

Agency: Department of Human Resources

Contact Us: Department of Human Resources

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6. 2004 Growth Retreat

The Henrico County 2004 Growth Retreat was a multiple day meeting held by the Board of Supervisors and coordinated by County staff to examine existing and future growth pressures and their potential implications for the County. It consisted of a two-day meeting on June 17th and 18th, 2004, with follow up meetings on June 24th and July 30th, 2004. In addition to County staff, attendees included the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, representatives from the School Board and the Economic Development Authority, the press, the development community, staff from surrounding jurisdictions and concerned citizens. At the meetings, County staff from over ten departments as well as consultants and members of the development community conducted a series of presentations, panel discussions and reports. Topics of these presentations and reports included past growth trends, utility policies, growth management concepts, the developer’s perspective, paying for infrastructure and the Comprehensive Plan. The retreat has already resulted in a shift in the manner growth is viewed and managed in the County, as well as the consideration of new growth in a responsible manner. The information disseminated and processes begun at the 2004 Growth Retreat will serve as the basis for future policies adopted by the County.

Agency: Planning Department

Contact Us: Planning Department

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7. Healthy Marriage Initiative

Henrico’s Healthy Marriage Initiative utilized a skills based approach using workshops as the dissemination vehicle. The workshops focused on specific communication skills, strategies for resolving conflicts and other interpersonal behaviors considered important for the success of intimate relationships. The goal of the initiative was to assist individuals and families served by the Henrico Department of Social Services and the Henrico community to gain better understanding of themselves, help identify positive or negative behavior that influence the quality of relationships, to clarify perceptions and expectations in dating relationships and to offer guidelines in choosing a life mate. The primary objective was for participants to develop practical interactive skills in communication, which is the basis for all successful life relationships. In addition, participants were encouraged to increase their awareness of specific areas of importance within the marriage relationship.

Agency:Department of Social Services

Contact Us: Department of Social Services

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Visit the National Association of Counties’ Web site

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