NEW LENOX – Herald-News reporter Mike Mallory spoke with Dan Martin, coordinator of Safe Communities New Lenox, which has the only active Safe Communities America chapter in the state. Among other programs, Safe Communities New Lenox offers a suicide survivor support group and mental health first-aid classes. May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Mallory: How has Safe Communities New Lenox grown since it started in 2010?
Martin: We had 18 organizations that participated at the start. We studied injury data, looked at what safety programs were in place and, for 14 months, we worked on an application to get accredited. We now have about 34 partner organizations and have become much more formalized. We have task groups that study specific data such as suicide, substance abuse, older adult falls, and those task groups address each issue.
Mallory: What does it say about the village and all its partners that New Lenox is the only Safe Communities program in the state?
Martin: It speaks volumes. Our collaborative partners that choose to work with us know the value of injury prevention. They share common goals and values. They recognize what issues exist. We’re very fortunate in that we can work together in a collaborative structure for common goals and purposes.
Mallory: What do you think is the biggest challenge or issue facing the area when it comes to safety?
Martin: Substance abuse, prescription drugs and opioid overdoses. Heroin is an issue we struggle with like other communities. We try to partner with groups like HERO Helps and others to develop programs that try to reduce those things. Another one is suicide, we work very hard to prevent it with Question, Persuade and Refer classes, mental health first aid classes and the Healing Hearts survivors of suicide support group. Our older adult injuries from falls are similar to other communities. That’s why it’s important to put on fit and strong, and matter of balance classes – evidence-based programs – for older adults.
Mallory: Where can people learn more about Safe Communities New Lenox and get involved?
Martin: At NewLenox.net, there’s a subsection under “Departments” titled “Safe Communities America.” We have individuals who have a shared interest in injury prevention and death prevention. Everybody seems to be drawn to something. Some have a background on the topic their task group is addressing, others are regular residents who have perhaps lost a loved one so they now have an interest in reducing that particular problem.