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FOR RELEASE: September 16, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Oklahoma to Develop Violent Death Reporting System

In a critical first step to prevent violent deaths, the Oklahoma State Department of Health has received a five-year grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop an Oklahoma Violent Death Reporting System (OVDRS). This system will collect timely, complete, and accurate information about violent deaths (primarily homicides and suicides) to gain a better understanding of the circumstances and factors that affect violent deaths.

The OVDRS is a joint project of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police. Oklahoma received $218,000 and is one of seven states to receive funding this year. These state systems will contribute data to a National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) at the CDC.

“This funding enables Oklahoma to address a critical information gap and establish a system to collect data about violent deaths in our state. Linking data to learn about all facets of homicide and suicide will provide an important opportunity for both local communities and state agencies to better understand violent deaths so that we can prevent these deaths from happening,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

In establishing the system, Oklahoma will compile information from death certificates, medical examiner’s reports, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reports, and police crime labs.

“Combining public health and criminal justice efforts to create a state and national violent death reporting system will bring diverse ideas and strategies to analyze the data associated with the violent death. It will help us identify trends to stop these senseless deaths and reduce the toll of violence for our nation,” said Thomas Jordan, acting director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. “Linking state-level data and sharing it with others is a crucial first step. If we can capture the fragments of data in all agencies that work in this arena and link each violent death and injury, then we can identify what works to stop it and begin to save lives in the future.”

Public health experts selected Oklahoma from among 17 applicants following a rigorous objective review. The other states selected to develop state violent death information collection systems are Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. States already receiving funding are: Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, and Virginia.

The CDC hopes to develop a national system similar to the Fatal Analysis Reporting System operated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has led to numerous improvements by researchers and others in motor vehicle safety.

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