Reimagine a Safe and Healthy Community

Reimagine a Safe and Healthy Community

“For any community to be equitable, resilient, and healthy, they must be safe.” Liz Grenat, Executive Director at Community Justice and Mediation Center (CJAM), shared recently at the “Reimagine a Safe and Healthy Community” July Wake Up! with United Way panel discussion. “We know that exposure to conflict is expensive. It increases the likelihood of family instability, it causes mental and physical health problems, legal issues, and it can lead to the breakdown of communities.”

Panelists including Grenat, Penny Caudill, Health Administrator at Monroe County Health Department, and Melissa Stone, Social Worker with the Bloomington Police Department, discussed ongoing efforts to build a better normal in the realm of community health. Mark Fraley, Associate Director of the IU PACE (Political and Civic Engagement) program, moderated the discussion.

Connecting health and safety issues lead to a thriving community. Mental health, employment, education, and housing stability all intersect to impact public safety. A wide range of collaborations can have positive health outcomes for our community.

“I don't think we can fully separate health and safety. Certainly, we can address individual things but the root cause of most of these issues is people's basic needs not being met.” Caudill reported, “Every time we do a health assessment, and this time as well, what are people most concerned about? Basic needs are always at the top of the list -- food, shelter, and safety. ‘How can I focus on my physical health if I don't know if I'm going to eat today,’ or ‘what I'm going to eat?’ and ‘If I don't know where I'm going to sleep tonight and if wherever that is, am I going to feel safe while I'm sleeping?’” 

Grenat spoke about the Community Voices for Health Project lead by CJAM. “The idea is for us to work with our community to find and strengthen ways for everyone to come together with decision-makers -- to understand issues that are facing our community. Then together find different and more effective ways to address those issues through policy and decision making.”

A big focus is to ensure that the voices of all people in our community are heard,” Grenat continued. “We've worked really hard to ensure that underrepresented people and underserved people who often are not at the table when those decisions are being made are at the table sharing their concerns. We're really listening to what they're saying and we're creating opportunities this fall to bring many of the decision-makers on the call together to grapple with these issues, understand things deeply, and really hear what's most important to the people in our community.”  

All three panelists spoke about the importance of partnership and collaboration in creating a safe and healthy community.  

“We have some great community partners,” Melissa Stone remarked. “I know I can't do the work that I do without them. We have people all across the board who are willing to assist.”

Stone spoke about how social workers work alongside Bloomington Police Department officers. She accompanies officers on calls where there is no crime committed but some type of assistance is needed. “We try to figure out what’s going on -- what's the full story? We tend to find people have just fallen through the cracks and they're not getting those basic needs met. So, a lot of times it's really getting them reconnected to the services that they've already had or getting them into new services that they hadn't had before. It tends to be outside of what police need to deal with. We get people connected to services they need and decrease those calls to the police department.”

Both Caudill and Stone highlighted the Stride Center, a diversion center for people suffering from substance use and mental health disorders.  

Caudill shared, “The Stride Center is a good example of what can come out of coalitions and lots of different people coming together. The Stride Coalition certainly has lots of different people at the table representing the community, really looking at what are the needs, and why are people going to jail perhaps that don't need to go to jail. It’s that there's a different root cause and providing that other opportunity. Unfortunately, before Stride, law enforcement only had the jail or the hospital to take people to. Now they have this other option.”

The group also discussed ways that equity can be fostered including bringing health elements into comprehensive planning, exploring a “Health in All Policies” collaborative approach that integrates health considerations into policymaking across sectors to improve the health of all communities and people, and ensuring that equity is at the foundation of medical school and public health education training.
“Equity is at the core of health and safety. This is why we need everyone at the table.” Caudill encouraged all community members to participate in making our community healthier and safer for all. “Share your thoughts and experiences so they are included in the health assessments. If we don’t hear those stories, then they’re not included.”

To have your voice heard, take a moment to participate in these community assessments (and please encourage your friends and networks to also take part):

 Watch the event video below.



Make your voice heard! Your input is needed for these community health assessments:


Wake Up! with United Way is a collaborative project of United Way of Monroe County and IU’s Political and Civic Engagement Program. The series is made possible by the following sponsors:


Premier Series Sponsor

Bloomington Township


Presenting Sponsors

Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County
IU Credit Union
Program Sponsors
Duke Energy
Old National Bank