West Virginia University and the greater Morgantown area have submitted a letter of intent to be the first joint National Safety Council “Safe Community.”

Morgantown and WVU would join nearly 30 towns in the country by becoming a “Safe Community.” It would the first designated “Safe Community” in West Virginia and the first joint “Safe Community” between a university and a town.

Safe Communities America, a program of the National Safety Council, exists to promote safety and well-being in towns across the country. They bring businesses, civic organizations, local government, non-profits and residents together to build a safer community for all to enjoy.

WVU President Gordon Gee and city and county officials signed a letter today (April 14), committing to the submission of an official application within the next year.

“The value added of a University devoted to the well-being of the town and state where it lives is among the most important callings of a university, particularly one designated by its mission as a land-grant university,” Gee said. “This is another step in West Virginia University and the Morgantown community working more closely together.”

According to a study by the National Safety Council, these “Safe Communities” lower fatal injury rates by a significant amount, with an average 10 percent reduction of intentional and unintentional injuries.

“We are all working toward the common goal of improving the quality of life for our community members,” said Colleen Harshbarger, director of the WELLWVU Office of Wellness and Health Promotion and co-chair. “The successful ‘Safe Communities’ process will not only result in better outcomes related to safety and well-being, but will also form lasting collaborative relationships. There’s so much talent in Greater Morgantown, I believe we will make great strides in our common goals by bringing people together in a way that will benefit all.”

Becoming a “Safe Community” will give Morgantown and WVU access to various benefits, including programs to evaluate and improve current injury prevention, funding opportunities and national recognition, Harshbarger said.

As a part of the application process, the group will be collecting injury data that can be used to collaborate and share with others. It will also continue collaboration between the City and University and improve or create programs to address injury patterns and trends in the community.

A group of faculty, staff, community members, state and city representatives began to meet last fall to discuss the opportunity of becoming a Safe Community.

After completing the application within the next year, a visit to review the greater Morgantown area will take place before it can officially be considered a “Safe Community.”

“I believe the ‘Safe Communities’ initiative is a great example of the City and WVU working together on safety issues and solutions in our area,” said Marti Shamberger, deputy mayor of Morgantown and co-chair. “The public will benefit from the preventative measures learned from the information collected.”

Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin said this is another great example of town-gown partnerships at work.

“It will benefit all the entities involved by identifying and promoting current best safety practices throughout our area,” Selin said. “We often have expertise in our area, through WVU, one of our hospitals or other public institutions, or private businesses – this certification process allows us to gather and harness these best safety practices for use in our own community.”



CONTACT: Colleen Harshbarger, WELLWVU
304.293.5054, Colleen.Harshbarger@mail.wvu.edu

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