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 works in collaboration with its partners to focus on substance misuse prevention, safe prescription drug disposal and storage, as well as other issues related to the health and safety of youth and families. One example of this collaboration is its work to support 1 of 13 Public Health Networks in NH to address substance misuse prevention efforts in the 10 communities in southern NH, the South Central PHN http://southcentralphn.org/. To raise awareness of critical issues and to encourage citizen involvement, CATS has produced studio roundtable discussions aired on Derry Community Access Media as well as PSAs and other media created by youth and community members. A priority is promoting youth leadership development and encouraging youth to make safe choices. Over the years youth members have been powerful advocates for driving and pedestrian safety and other prevention initiatives through creative campaigns, community engagement and peer to peer education.
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. 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. The partnerships developed over the years are the pillars for the work. Its staff and Board of Directors have demonstrated long-term commitments to the mission and the non-profit thus supporting its sustainability over the years.
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