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WVU and greater Morgantown earn 'Safe Communities' accreditation

Friday, April 15, 2016

Safety is a constant concern for local governments and university administrators. Residents, students and their parents, and visitors expect a safer environment on campuses and across the community.

A coalition of community members from West Virginia University, the City of Morgantown and Monongalia County came together in 2013 to create the WVU-Greater Morgantown Safe Communities Initiative to look for ways to increase safety across the community.

Their work has now has been accepted for Safe Communities America accreditation.

“Our designation as an accredited community in the Safe Communities America network is a milestone, but it is not the end of the road,” said WVU President E. Gordon Gee. “We know that teamwork among our local leaders and the University makes Morgantown a safe place for our students, faculty and staff. What this process has shown is that we can make it even safer, and better, by applying the lessons learned elsewhere to our community.”

The Morgantown area will be the 28th community in the United States to achieve accreditation, said Dan Shook, director of the WVU Greater Morgantown Safe Communities Initiative. “We are the first Safe Community to be a collaboration between a city, a county and a university. Our vision is to build the safest, healthiest community on the globe.”

“We view this as a positive co-operation between all the entities that exist in the county,” said Eldon Callen, president of the Monongalia County Commission. “Safety is of prime importance to all of us, and this accreditation will establish Monongalia County as a leader in this initiative.”

Forty-five local groups worked together over the last three years to identify specific risks to the community, begin planning an approach to safety improvements and draft the application for recognition.

They identified motor vehicle-related injury, older adult falls, poisoning by prescription drug overdoses,workplace safety, violence and suicide prevention, emergency preparedness and alcohol-related injury as the key focus areas for their work.

“Communities with this designation have demonstrated a 10-percent reduction in unintentional injuries. I believe that this is a social and economic benefit that all communities would support,” said Morgantown Mayor Marti Shamberger. “Collaboration, communication, education will be essential as we build upon the strengths of being a Safe Community.”

The group will now work on implementation.

“One of our core goals is to realize significant positive improvement in safety, health, and well-being indicators every year,” Shook said. “We intend to use a rapid-cycle process to find approaches that work, spread them across the region, and measure their impact.”

The coalition is planning a public celebration of the accreditation with all 45 participating groups this summer.

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CONTACT: Daniel S. Shook, Ph.D., Director, WVU Greater Morgantown Safe Communities Initiative
Office: 304-293-8408, Cell: 614-448-7168, daniel.shook@hsc.wvu.edu