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This Hour: Latest Virginia news, sports, business and entertainment

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MENTAL HEALTH

New Va. mental health panel has first meeting

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia lawmakers are promising a top-to-bottom review of the state's mental health system with the goal of making it a model for the rest of the country.

A new mental health reform panel met for the first time Monday in Richmond.

The panel elected state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, as its chairman. Deeds has made improving the state's mental health system his top priority following his mentally ill son's suicide last year. Gus Deeds stabbed his father then killed himself hours after he was released from emergency custody because mental health officials could not find an available psychiatric bed in the time allotted by law.

Sen. Deeds said Monday the panel has a broad mandate to recommend and help implement improvements to the state's mental health system.

ARCH COAL-MINE IDLED

Arch Coal idles mine complex in Va., Ky.

APPALACHIA, Va. (AP) - Arch Coal says it is idling the Cumberland River Coal Company complex in Wise County, Virginia, and Letcher County, Kentucky.

Officials said Monday that more than 210 full-time positions are being eliminated by the move.

Arch Coal CEO John Eaves says the company is responding to market challenges for metallurgical coal used to make steel. Eaves said the company's strategy is to shift its portfolio toward higher-margin, lower-cost metallurgical coal operations. The mining complex had previously shuttered two contract mines during the second quarter of 2013.

Idling the operations will reduce the company's 2014 metallurgical coal sales volumes by about 200,000 tons. Arch Coal now expects to ship between 6.3 million and 6.9 million tons of metallurgical coal for 2014.

FLORIDA SMOKERS

Widow: Jury sent tobacco company a $23B message

NEW YORK (AP) - A Florida widow awarded $23.6 billion in the death of her chain-smoking husband says the massive verdict is a message to Big Tobacco.

Legal experts and industry analysts say the punitive damages - $23,623,718,906.62, to be precise - almost certainly will be significantly reduced on appeal, if not thrown out entirely. In another major tobacco trial, a $28 billion verdict in a 2002 case in Los Angeles turned into $28 million after appeals.

But Cynthia Robinson of Pensacola says the figure almost doesn't matter. Her husband started smoking at 13 and died of lung cancer at 36. She says R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has to own up to what happened to her husband. Legal experts say she probably won't see much of the money.

The tobacco company plans to appeal.

OYSTER HARVEST

Va. records best oyster harvest since 1987

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia is marking its largest oyster harvest in more than 25 years.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced on Monday that the state's oyster harvest jumped 25 percent last year to the highest seen since 1987.

Over the past 12 years, Virginia's oyster harvest has increased from 23,000 bushels in 2001 to about 504,000 bushels last year. The harvest numbers include wild oysters and those grown in aquaculture farms.

The dockside value of the oyster harvest increased to $22.2 million last year, up from $16.2 million in 2012.

Officials say the milestone harvest is the result of state investments in replenishing oysters in Virginia.

But the Virginia Marine Resources Commission says oysters are still susceptible to disease and other environmental factors outside of its control.

LOTTERY SCAM

Va. Lottery warns consumers of lottery scams

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The Virginia Lottery is launching a campaign to warn people about fake lottery scams.

Officials say the "Play Smart" campaign is aimed at informing both lottery players and non-players to be careful when someone tells they're told they've won a large prize.

While the scams take many forms, officials say that in most cases, criminals email or call to tell intended victims they have won a large prize. Then the crooks try to get the person to send money or personal information.

The "Play Smart" campaign includes a public service announcement for TV and radio, as well as a brochure filled with tips on how to avoid being scammed.

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Online:

http://www.valottery.com

FOREST FIREFIGHTERS

Va. firefighters to combat wildfires in Oregon

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Firefighters from the Virginia Department of Forestry are helping to combat wildfires in central Oregon.

More than 20 agency employees are heading to Oregon to work as part of a wildfire hand crew and as incident managers. The crew is expected to be deployed for 16 days.

Officials say large, complex wildfires require more personnel than most states possess and that mutual aid is important in firefighting efforts.

During the last nine years, Virginia wildland firefighters have helped with suppression efforts in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and California. Firefighters from nearly two dozen states have previously traveled to Virginia to help battle large wildfires.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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