Member Profile

Community Alliance for Teen Safety

The Community Alliance for Teen Safety (CATS) was founded in 1996 after 11 teens lost their lives in car crashes within a short period of time in Derry. Under the leadership of the Director of Emergency Services at Parkland Medical Center a grassroots coalition of community leaders, youth, parents and state safety specialists came together to determine what the root causes were that led to the tragedies. This grassroots coalition became CATS and formalized by incorporating in 1996 and receiving its non-profit status in 1997.  Its initial focus was on driving safety. CATS spearheaded efforts to raise the mandatory age for seat belt use from age 12 to age 18. The Governor came to Derry in 1997 to sign this legislation into law in recognition of the community’s loss and efforts. The coalition was recognized as NH’s 1st Safe Communities program by NHTSA in 1997 and received the International Safe Communities Special Achievement Award in 2000.

In addition to driving safety, CATS focuses on substance misuse prevention, bullying prevention, internet safety and media literacy, safe prescription drug disposal, as well as other issues related to the health and safety of youth and families. To raise awareness of critical issues and to encourage citizen involvement, CATS produces studio roundtable discussions aired on Derry Cable Television as well as PSAs and other media created by youth and community members.

The Community Alliance for Teen Safety has effectively served as a central hub connecting the various spokes of the community wheel. Outreach to the community and in-reach to CATS has been simultaneous and dynamic, establishing a prototype for looking at solving community issues going forward. CATS remains committed to promoting a safer community and to facilitating the growth of new and expanded linkages among the various sectors of the community.

CATS serves in a collaborative partnership with Center for Life Management, Parkland Medical Center, and Greater Derry Community Health Services, under the fiscal leadership of the Granite United Way, to support the public health needs of south central NH. The network is called the South Central Regional Public Health Network and serves the 10 towns of Derry, Londonderry, Chester, Hampstead, Windham, Salem, Plaistow, Atkinson, Danville, and Sandown. CATS is contracted to provide substance misuse prevention support for the region. CATS works closely with local first responders and others to address the opioid crisis and is a member of the Derry Opioid Crisis Response Team- the Team provided lifesaving CPR/AED and naloxone administration training for over 250 people in Derry since June.

The Mission of CATS is to promote safe habits for all youth by increasing awareness of high-risk behaviors, encouraging healthy choices, and fostering community alliances.

CATS has hosted youth leadership groups over the many years- the current youth members who are Pinkerton students are working on a pedestrian safety project related to a route to and from their school they feel is unsafe. The youth were invited to present about their project at the annual NH Traffic Safety conference in May of 2016.

CATS welcomed youth interns during the summer/fall of 2016 in partnership with the Derry Community Television to create and produce media on topics related to driving safety with the assistance of state Injury Prevention and Highway Safety partners. In 2015 CATS partnered with the Pinkerton video production class to produce a PSA on distracted driving which won a regional Emmy and will be playing at the Derry Flagship cinema into the new year. The PSA is entitled “Finish your Story”. Funding from the Alexander Eastman Foundation and State Farm Insurance supported the driving and pedestrian safety efforts.

During the summer of 2016 CATS held a media camp for youth in partnership with the Derry Community TV with funding from the NH Office of Highway Safety to provide media production and leadership skills building training for area high school youth. Youth from 3 school districts attended – the participants created a PSA about making good choices entitled “The Moment of Truth” and have stayed together under the tutelage of the Derry CTV staff to create and produce their own show about issues that affect the health and safety of their peers and the community. The show will air on the Derry access cable station. State Highway Safety experts as well as Marilyn Bachman whose husband was killed by a distracted driver provided data and inspiration to camp attendees. Interns from the Next Charter school and Pinkerton Academy helped guide the project. We are very proud of this committed and creative group of youth and thankful for our generous partners!

Relationships are the important foundation for the work we do- helping to build capacity for the community to increase its protective factors/assets and reduce risk factors – all toward promoting a safer community for all. All sectors of the community are critical partners in the public health and community outreach work- so much can be done if we work together and collaborate, share ideas and resources.

We welcome and encourage people to reach out with ideas or questions – sharing your thoughts helps us understand what is important to people related to youth health and safety. We also welcome in-kind support which helps us sustain our efforts. Please don’t hesitate to contact us! And, thank you for all YOU do to help make your communities safer!

CATS’ Executive Director, Sue Centner, has served in her position since 1996. She welcomes calls or emails with questions or ideas. Sue can be reached at director@catsnh.org. The office phone is 603.434.5251. CATS’ address is: PO Box 1225, Derry, NH 03038-6225 (mail) and 1 Hood Rd., Derry, NH 03038 (office).  www.catsnh.org and www.facebook.com/CATSNH

Posted on: Monday, December 5, 2016

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