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President's Blog

 A few words from our President Binnie LeHew, MSW, the Executive Officer for the Office of Disability, Injury & Violence Prevention at the Iowa Department of Public Health.



 September 2016

This post marks the end of my first year as President and I want to acknowledge some important transitions. Carol Thornton has finished her term as Past-President and Lindsey Myers begins hers as President-Elect. I am fortunate to be “bookended” by people of great character and intelligence, and I thank them for their service!!

Last month I mentioned the President’s Work Group. During the September Board Meeting and Retreat, our Executive Committee discussed and voted on their recommendations, which I am pleased to share. The recommendations focused on key actions to help Safe States realize our vision and mission, while we develop and realign our financial resources, maximize and support our human resources, and assure a culture of continuous quality improvement. We decided to take a smart risk, betting on our staff and volunteer expertise, our infrastructure, and our reputation – by making a three-year commitment to invest limited funds from our reserves to strengthen these and expand our fundraising, policy, and partnership efforts for strategic future growth.

The steps for the coming year include:

  • Supporting increased time for our Executive Director to devote to fundraising, government relations, and partnership development.

  • Realigning staff time to reduce or eliminate lower priority work, allowing for more focus on efforts aligned with our mission and priorities. This includes creating a new staff position for a Principal Deputy Director to oversee both programmatic and personnel duties. 

  • Implementing plans for a fully virtual office by October 2017, reducing our office space expenses.

  • Investing in technology and infrastructure needs to support the virtual office, while improving quality and efficiency.

More details and specific changes will be shared with you in the coming months, but it will not change the availability of staff to respond to your inquiries and maintain up-to-date information on our website.  We earnestly believe these changes will provide a supportive environment for our hard-working staff to continue to provide the excellent services you’ve come to expect. I want to acknowledge the time and planning staff contributed to the preparation of background materials to help guide our decision-making process.

And, finally – please make note that the 2017 Annual Meeting will be held in fall 2017 rather than spring.  We hope this will be a more amenable time in light of typical spring workloads, holidays and other meetings attended by Safe States members. Stay tuned for more details from our Annual Meeting Planning Committee in the coming months; if you would like to serve on that, please let us know.

As always – if you have any questions or ideas you’d like to share with me related to the work of our Association, I’d love to hear from you! Next month I’ll share updates from this past week’s international injury and violence prevention conference (Safety 2016) in Tampere, Finland. Happy Fall.




August 2016

Preparing for the road ahead

I’ve been reflecting on the many successes Safe States has to celebrate.  Recently, the CDC announced the 23 states awarded the Core State Violence & Injury Prevention Program – three more than previously funded. We are currently awaiting word on new states to be added to the 32 who are part of the National Violent Death Reporting System and additional state recipients of recent Prescription Drug Overdose grants. This is evidence of increased recognition for the need to invest in stronger violence and injury prevention resources in our states – and is certainly a “win” for the great work we’ve been doing to educate policy makers and government agencies about these needs. All of you who have been diligent in providing information to your state and federal policymakers about our pressing issues deserve a big pat on the back for your efforts!

In light of these recent successes and this year’s unprecedented number of funding opportunities Safe States has been seeking, our Management Team recognized the need to do a review of our current operations and financial structure to see if we are well positioned to respond to emerging needs in our field. Earlier this month, I convened a “President’s Workgroup” bringing together several past presidents, our new President-Elect and senior staff to do some reflection and forward thinking about how we are positioned as an organization and where we believe we need to be in the next five years.



Pictured (left to right): Linda Scarpetta, Lori Haskett, Alex Kelter, Susan Hardman, Binnie LeHew, and Lindsey Myers

We began by walking through Safe States’ historical timeline and marking key periods of growth, including the types of activities in which the association is now involved. We also discussed challenges facing the organization, including human resources, technological, fiscal and structural constraints. As a result, we have identified steps both staff and the board can take to align our strategic direction better with the resources we expect to have going forward. While we are not quite ready to broadly share the next steps, as more research and discussion with the full Executive Committee is needed, I wanted to keep our members abreast of the process and to be on the lookout for more updates as the plan is formulated.  Finally, I want to say how impressed I am with the honesty, passion and commitment that senior staff and the presidents gave to the discussion throughout the two-day process. We recognize changes can be anxiety-producing, but our organization has been through changes in the past that have only made us stronger and better. We expect that as we move forward, this will continue to solidify the vitality of our association. Stay tuned!  





July 2016 

Love will always win 

The last few weeks have raised our country’s alarm, again, about the impact of gun violence on safety in our communities and the worth of the victims impacted. The tragedy of lives lost and injured in Orlando has resulted in a rallying cry for gun control/gun safety amongst the political discourse and vows to stand up for those who may be targeted. I have personally been moved by the thousands upon thousands of people who have used social media and active demonstration in their communities to spread the word that hate loses and love will always win. It is this kind of response that gives me faith in the spirit of community more than anything.  

In the aftermath of the shooting, the Washington Post ran a good story with FAQ’s about the rise in gun violence and the public’s attitude about gun rights vs. gun control. Two were particularly poignant: 1) where there are more guns, there are more homicides and 2) active shooter events have become more common in recent years. The FBI defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” The average number of annual active shootings has increased from six to 16 per year. Surveys indicate there are more people who support gun rights than ever before while the popularity of gun control has been declining. However, a survey conducted by Pew Research found there are specific policies that many people support; these include background checks, assault weapons ban, and a federal database to track guns.

I mention this because of the work that Safe States Alliance has done to promote firearm safety. Recently, the Executive Committee approved a position statement that advocates policy actions on the accountable sale and transfer of firearms. We believe these actions can be a “win-win” for both gun rights and gun safety advocates. I hope you will read and use this information to support your work in the coming months as you meet with policymakers or civic leaders about safety in your communities.

I would like to end this month’s blog with a recognition of one of our colleagues, who recently made a career transition. Ellen R. Schmidt – the first President of STIPDA (now Safe States Alliance) - left her position with the Education Development Center/Children’s Safety Network after nearly 19 years. She started her career as an occupational therapist, and worked in the Maryland Department of Health & Hygiene to direct their first injury and violence prevention program. Ellen didn’t want to patch people up after the fact; she dedicated her life’s work to prevention. Ellen served on many national advisory groups and worked tirelessly to improve safety conditions for children. A colleague of mine spoke with me about her view of this transition – and it is, indeed the passing of a torch. Ellen, I don’t believe your torch will burn out anytime soon – so I give you a blessing that you have given to others – “Stay well, be happy, and laugh a lot!”



June 2016

Summer is in full swing!

Spring is in full bloom and summer breezes are blowing; I’ve been attending graduation celebrations as another school year comes to an end.  It’s hard not to want to be on “summer vacation” even though it has been many years since I had my summers off! Many of us in state health departments had a very busy spring with grant applications and state policy activities – so hopefully, as we move into summer you all can enjoy a lighter schedule.



I thought I would provide a brief update on projects staff and volunteers have been doing. 


Safe States will conduct two STAT visits this summer – one to North Dakota in June for their second visit and the other to Minnesota in August for their first visit. Both states hope to gain insights into strong aspects of their state injury and violence prevention programs as well as areas for improvement. 



Through a contract with the Association of State & Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), Safe States has been working on a project with the CDC’s RPE Program. The project’s purpose is to enhance State Health Departments’ abilities to strengthen their sexual violence prevention infrastructure to support the successful implementation and evaluation of their RPE programs. As a part of this project, Safe States is producing a series of stories from the field to highlight aspects of state programs that are doing strong work in this area. Those are expected to be released later this summer. 



Staff has been busy developing additional proposals to support our desire to strengthen hospital-based injury prevention programs and further expand our work with the Joyce Foundation related to violent deaths. 



As your President, I have participated on the Sr. Deputies Committee of ASTHO and their Peer Networking calls to provide input on injury and violence prevention strategies in health departments.  Additionally, I have held regular conference calls with SAVIR’s President, Carri Casteel, who also lives in Iowa!  We’ve been working on ideas for partnering between the two organizations and are developing a joint workgroup we expect to launch this summer – so stay tuned! 



As always, I welcome your thoughts and your ideas to help strengthen our association.  Have a great month!



May 6, 2016

Every member’s voice matters!

At the annual meeting in April, the Executive Committee met with our Government Relations Consultant, Paul Bonta. Paul has been working with our association for over a year to help us advance our policy priorities. He helps guide the work that we do to convene the Injury and Violence Prevention Network.  We are fortunate to have Paul on staff as he has really dialed up the presence and focus of our policy work in Washington. Last year, when the Executive Committee developed the three-year strategic map, we committed to supporting key activities of developing policy and advocacy resources, educating decision-makers to advance the field, and magnifying our voice through collective policy strategies.

The good news is that we are seeing a time when our priorities are receiving strong national attention – there are many partners engaged in support of our work and we have witnessed increased focus and resources to address emerging areas such as prescription drug overdose and violent death reporting. If there ever was a time when our issues are receiving Congressional attention, it is now. 

The down side? Our effort to get broad support for a “Dear Colleague” letter in both the House and Senate supporting the need for core injury and violence prevention funding failed. The barrier? An insufficient grassroots response.

Your Executive Committee members spent time at our meeting to identify important steps that the association needs to take in order to realize the impact that Safe States can have on policy change for our field. Here are some of the takeaways I wanted to share with members:

  • For our organization to be truly successful in our policy efforts, each member must be willing to extend his or her voice to reach key policymakers in your state.

  • There is no limit to what you can do, as a member of the association, when you are speaking on behalf of yourself as an individual and not as a representative of the organization in which you are employed. You are free to contact your Congressperson or Senator using personal email, phone or in-person contact as long as it is outside the boundaries of your paid employment.  Just as we advocate for everyone to exercise their individual right to vote – we also have the right to contact our Congressperson or Senator to express individual opinions and positions on important issues.

  • You, as state or community-level practitioners, have valuable experience and perspective to share with your elected officials. Members of Congress don’t have the expertise on injury and violence prevention, so this offers you the perfect opportunity to contact and educate them, which helps advance Safe States’ policy agenda. Keep in mind – if you don’t provide that information, there is no guarantee anyone else will.

  • Making contact with your elected officials is not rocket science; rather, it is a simple process of building relationships.

Safe States has developed many resources to assist you in this work. If you don’t already have a fact sheet that describes the work happening in your state to prevent injuries and violence, develop one. There are templates you can use and colleagues in neighboring states who can assist you in preparing and providing this information to elected officials.

Here is my challenge to each and every one of you: step up your game; identify and take at least one specific step that includes outreach to educate and get to know your national elected officials. I am committing to contacting my Congressman and Senators at least quarterly by providing updates on our work and inviting them to key events in our state. I also commit to asking my colleagues and partners to do the same – in order to magnify the reach and influence that I can have. 

Will you join me? If so, please remember to let Paul know about your key contacts and the information you communicate. He will be more than happy to follow-up with your delegation the next time he is on the Hill in Washington.



March 14, 2016

Are you ready to Lift Off??


The other day, I was taking a walk and saw my first spring crocus and the tips of my neighbor’s daffodils. I’ve been hearing robins singing for several weeks, so I think it’s safe to say that spring is around the corner here in the Midwest. The hardest part is staying focused on the work at hand to meet looming grant deadlines – but at least there is something to look forward to!


And, speaking of looking forward – I am getting excited about the Safe States 2016 Annual Meeting in April! The Annual Meeting Planning Committee has been working hard to finalize a wonderful agenda that encompasses this year’s theme of Elevating a Culture of Safety


You’ll find many conference sessions to stimulate your work. Here are a few highlights:

  • Two excellent preconference workshops will be offered – one to help you better understand your role in public health policy, and the other to develop your skills for transformative leadership. These sessions offer more intensive learning experiences to build specific skills for your work. Even if you have already registered, it’s not too late to add on a preconference workshop.
  • Our opening general session features Michael Haines, who has studied social norms change and will offer his insights to help frame our time together throughout the conference.
  • The federal panel for Wednesday morning’s general session will be followed by a series of breakout “conversations” with our federal partners.  We hope this new offering will allow for in-depth conversations about opportunities for state-local-federal partnerships.
  • A cross-disciplinary discussion hosted by the Leadership Committee– “Elevating the IVP Workforce: Fresh Perspectives for Injury and Violence Prevention Professionals in an Era of Transformation” – will be part of Thursday morning’s concurrent session. It promises to be a relevant and lively discussion as we explore future directions for our field.
  • Our closing general session will lift up our understanding of violence as it continues to be more widely viewed as a health issue.
  • Network and learn from 200+ professionals from across the country during the poster showcase and at a number of social events and networking breaks.

Our annual meeting is a marvelous opportunity to learn about current trends and practices in our field, gain new skills, and network with the diverse professionals in our field. If you haven’t registered – it’s not too late!  Online registration is open through March 22nd. We’d love for you to be there!




February 16, 2016

Getting unstuck from the muck

As I worked on my topic for this month’s blog - which is already a week or two late – the words knee-deep kept popping into my head. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I have been knee-deep in life. Recently, this has been true for grant applications, snow, and for those of us in the early presidential campaign primary states; it applies to political ads, polls and phone calls! So, I decided to reflect on the things that pull us into the “muck” of this work and how we can keep from getting buried in it.


In this field many of us are motivated by our passion to make communities safer, to use data to better inform solutions to reduce injury and violence, or even just a desire for public service in general. Some of us have personal experiences or stories that lit a fire within, bringing us to this work.  Whatever the motivation – it is hard work that requires a long-term commitment to see real change. The day-to-day grind can take a toll.  


In a recent meeting with colleagues in my health department, we were discussing ways to shape the internal culture to integrate a trauma-informed approach to program implementation, particularly with populations most at risk. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What do I do to address my stress, the limitations of time for work, life balance, and fuel my fire”? I had to be honest and admit that I don’t do enough – I say “yes” more than I should and I don’t take enough time to play and laugh. It is easy to get overwhelmed by toxic stress and burnout; those of us working in trauma centers or violence prevention may be particularly prone.


February is about hearts – caring for our tickers, showing love to others – how about caring for ourselves?  If we are going to make our communities safer and more nurturing, what steps can we each take NOW to move forward? For me, for NOW, that means saying “no” when I have nothing left to give, asking for help when I need it and spending more time in my yoga practice…which is part of what tethers me to this good earth and helps me stay focused on creating a culture of safety in my community.


In closing, I leave you with these questions - What keeps you grounded in your work to reduce injuries and violence in your state and communities? How do you pull yourself out of the muck when the work gets overwhelming? Remember, you can’t pour into others or your work if your cup is empty. I’d love to hear how you keep your cup filled without it running over! Send me your thoughts.


All the best,



January 4, 2016 

Wishing you a Safe and Nurturing New Year

As I write this, it is the last day of 2015 and I’m trying hard to avoid the temptation of developing my list of “resolutions” for the New Year.  All around me are ads for exercise equipment, gym membership specials and tips for healthy eating.  I wonder what we would see if there was equal emphasis on environmental safety or our interpersonal/emotional health?

I suppose we would see ads for bicycle helmets, promotions for non-slip surfaces or grab bars to reduce falls in the home.  Perhaps there would be a New Year’s special on smart cars. Wouldn’t it be great to see ads promoting free depression screening in pharmacies, reduced rates for substance abuse treatment or free gun locks for the first 1,000 customers? I like to think of my idealistic fantasies as part of my inoculation to the tragedy and violence in the news every day. I’m glad I can be surrounded by my injury and violence prevention colleagues who work every day to elevate a culture of safety. 


As I reflect on the important work we all do day in and day out, I want to take a moment and acknowledge one of our peers and leaders in the field. My mentor and friend, John Lundell, retired from his position as Deputy Director for the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center on December 31st.  Throughout his career, John contributed a lot of his time and energy to the Safe States Alliance and to the Injury Control and Emergency Health Services section of the American Public Health Association (APHA).  For Iowa, he forged strong relationships with members of Congress, including Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley.  I want to shout out a big THANKS and BEST WISHES to a wonderful human being. We’ll miss you in this field but know you won’t be far away as you continue your passion for this work as mayor of Coralville, IA.


Now it’s back to work. Let’s resolve to make a difference in 2016. Remember that the public comment period for the CDC opioid prescribing guidelines is open until January 13th; go here to review and provide feedback.  Many of you are busy beginning your Core State Violence and Injury Prevention Program (Core SVIPP) grant applications. I wish everyone well on your endeavors and of course, a “Safe and Nurturing” New Year!  Speaking of which, what is your resolution for a “Safe and Nurturing” New Year?  Is there someone you’d like to give a shout out to for their work in this field?  I’d love to hear from you!


All the best in 2016!





December 7, 2015

A Time for Reflection and Giving

The holiday season is upon us, complete with decorations, winter storms, and longer nights. I am always challenged to find time to enjoy the “reflective” mood of the winter season while keeping up with work deadlines and my attempt to enjoy the seasonal celebrations. I hope you are all finding some moments of peace among the craziness of these days!

By now, you should know about our spring 2016 Annual Meeting and are hopefully working on your abstracts. In April, we will meet in Albuquerque, NM to “Lift Off” and elevate our culture of safety even higher. In light of all that is in the news these days, I believe it is more important than ever that we gather together to learn from and support each other in our important work.

Some of you may be wondering why we selected this location, as it is a departure from past “tradition” when meetings were hosted in the President’s home state and alternated with Washington D.C. or Atlanta. There have been a number of factors contributing to the change, including biannual Core VIPP grantee meetings in Atlanta, the growing costs of D.C. meetings and separately scheduled member “Hill Days,” as well as annual meetings held in partnership with the Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Research. This year we wanted to consider other locations that would move us away from the east coast toward our members in the west.  We desired to find a location that offered reasonable hotel rates, airline access, a walkable community with nearby restaurants and shopping, and opportunity for strong social networking. With this in mind, we hope you are excited about the opportunities that being near Old Town in Albuquerque will bring! Please make your plans now to join us!

As you wrap up this calendar year, please consider making a contribution to the Safe States Alliance with a direct donation or through AmazonSmile.  We each pay dues personally or through our organizations’ memberships – however, this income is just a small portion of the services Safe States provides. With additional contributions, we have more resources for our critically needed advocacy work and can address other priorities established by the Executive Committee to advance our mission that are not covered by the grants and contracts we receive.

In this season of giving, I’d like to express my gratitude for the “gift of safety” all of you bring to your organizations and communities every day. I am pleased to work with so many dedicated and mission-driven people and to know we have such a broad impact. I encourage you to take a moment to reflect upon the value of what you bring to this field!  

Safe and happy holidays.        




November 9, 2015


Bringing Polar Opposites Together?

I have been thinking a lot about what it takes to bring differing viewpoints together to face a challenge and find common ground for action. Perhaps I’m a little too sensitive about this with all the traffic in Iowa related to the upcoming Iowa Caucuses….and so many differing voices about what this country needs to move forward. We hear too often about the gaps that separate us when tackling such challenges as the federal budget, health care reform, and economic inequality. In particular, we’ve devolved into demonizing those whose views oppose ours.

I was listening to an interview on Iowa Public Radio this past week with two individuals who are about as opposite as they could be on the issue of gay marriage. Donna Red Wing, the director of One Iowa, an organization working toward full equality for LGBT individuals and Bob Vander Plaats, the President and CEO of The Family Leader, whose mission is to strengthen families by inspiring Christ-like leadership, were talking about their efforts to engage in civil discourse over their differing viewpoints. They meet regularly to explore areas of common understanding and have an honest debate about their differences. I found the interview refreshing as they both admitted the conversations have resulted in a relationship of respect and friendship. While they still hold their different positions, they have created a place where open, civil discussion can occur.

Those of us in the injury and violence prevention field are not strangers to controversy. Decades were needed to influence policies surrounding car safety, seat belt use, and helmet use. We have been diligently working to address the increase in prescription drug overdoses during the last 5-10 years. I believe we are now challenged to contribute our knowledge and resources to stem the rising tide of deaths from gun violence. This was recently addressed at the 2015 APHA Conference during a presentation The Tipping Point: Activating a Public Health Movement to Address Gun Violence. It seems one of the largest barriers to moving forward is the polarity between “gun control” vs. “2nd amendment rights” advocates; fueled by the strong emotions and beliefs surrounding the issue.

Is it possible for us to imagine our field – those of us who spend our days in the “trenches”– offering our leadership to convene people on all sides of this issue to have open, honest and respectful dialogue? If we can start there, perhaps we begin to find common ground on solutions that might move our communities forward with a vision of safety for all. We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines and wait for the next tragedy to occur. 


Binnie LeHew

 September 28, 2015



Greetings from Your New President - Binnie LeHew

As I begin my presidency with the Safe States Alliance, I first want to acknowledge Carol Thornton’s two years of outstanding service. As President, she guided us through our recent strategic mapping process and was an effective voice for our organization. I feel privileged to follow in her footsteps and expect to continue to learn from her.  Thank you, Carol for giving your time and talents so generously!


To introduce myself, I’ll take you on a brief walk through my work in this field. My “first” job in violence prevention was in 1980 when I directed a community rape crisis program. I did educational programs and self-defense classes, and while that would not be considered primary prevention today, it was my introduction to the importance of prevention in reducing the burden of violence in my community. Seventeen years later, after a stint in the world of clinical social work, I was hired by the Iowa Dept of Public Health to be their first violence prevention coordinator. Here I have managed a variety of programs, including domestic and sexual violence prevention and domestic abuse death review. Since 2008, I have served as the Designated State Representative for Iowa and now coordinate our state’s disability, injury and violence prevention programs, including our Violent Death Reporting System program and work in falls prevention. 


I tend to keep my work and personal life separate; I prefer to be focused on the work at hand!  However, in the interest of getting to know me a little better, here are three things you may not know. 

  1. My name is a nickname for my given name, Vivian. I was named after an aunt who couldn’t pronounce the name and hence, became “Binnie”.  She was a strong and beautiful woman who, along with other females in my family – inspired me to achieve my best.

  2. I have a twin sister, whose name is Virginia/“Ginnie.” We are fraternal and never got to play pranks by switching places growing up.  She taught me how to live with people who operate very differently than I do.

  3. I took banjo lessons for two years in my early 50’s – mostly because I wanted to play a “happy” instrument and have always loved how banjo music gets me moving.  The experience taught me that you are never too old to learn new tricks – and it’s good to get out of your head (and your heart!) periodically when you do this kind of work.     


Lastly, I want to say a little about what you can expect from me as President.

  • I want to strengthen Safe States’ work and reputation in the area of violence prevention as we expand a foundation we have firmly established in unintentional injury.

  • I want to maintain Safe States’ credibility as a national leader and be a stronger driving force with federal and national partners working to integrate injury and violence prevention into other areas of public health.

  • I want to be available and responsive to the growing needs of our diverse membership!


To accomplish these things, I expect to work closely with our Executive Committee, working committees and Special Interest Groups (SIG). The key to our success is the support we give each other and the partnerships we embrace. On this note, I encourage all of you to take advantage of the many opportunities your membership provides and get involved in a committee or SIG, today!  


I look forward to working with you all and invite you to contact me with any ideas or concerns you have.



Binnie LeHew

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