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Richmond, Henrico aim to ‘provide best care possible’ with health department merger

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The health departments of the City of Richmond and Henrico County will now be managed under one leadership team.

"County lines and city lines should not matter if we can provide the best care possible," Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said during the press conference attended by officials from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Richmond and Henrico County.

The two health districts will be lead under the direction of Dr. Danny Avula who was recently appointed to the dual health director role.

It is the first appointment of this kind in VDH’s Central Region, according to a press release.

Dr. Danny Avula

Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas said the merger allows for the neighboring localities to better tackle important health crisis like the opioid epidemic.

“We need strategic partnerships and closer collaborations to move our region forward,” Stoney said. “We can measure our success as a region in many ways, but the health and wellbeing of our citizens are central. Dr. Avula is widely recognized for his vision and innovation in public health.”

The announcement came during a free flu clinic at the St. Luke Apartments Thursday afternoon. St. Luke, which is a public housing community located on Pilots Lane in Henrico County, was formerly named Essex Village.

"Today we are combining forces that we don’t allow for any of our residents to fall through the cracks," Stoney added.

Stoney received a flu shot after the press conference to encourage citizens to combat the virus.

The two health districts will continue to maintain separate staffs and operations.

Avula joined the Richmond City Health District as deputy director in 2009 and became the director in 2016. He began serving in an additional capacity as acting health director for Henrico in 2017, according to the release.