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California to Collect Data on Violent Deaths in New Reporting System

Researchers and policymakers in California could soon have comprehensive statistics on violent deaths, key information that could shape prevention efforts. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday to require the California Department of Public Health to create and manage a California Electronic Violent Death Reporting System, provided it has funding.

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Researchers and policymakers in California could soon have comprehensive statistics on violent deaths, key information that could shape prevention efforts.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday to require the California Department of Public Health to create and manage a California Electronic Violent Death Reporting System, provided it has funding.

Bill author Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician from Sacramento, described gun violence as a public health crisis and said his bill would help researchers save lives.

“We can prevent violent deaths if we have the data to understand the root causes,” Pan said in a statement after the governor signed his bill.

SB 877 will require the department to collect data on violent deaths as reported by death certificates, law enforcement reports, coroner or medical examiner reports, and other sources. The department must also post a summary and analysis of the data on its website.

In addition, if funding is available, law enforcement is authorized to report the circumstances surrounding violent deaths, including details from investigative reports and laboratory toxicology reports. The data would be made public; however, individual identifying information would remain confidential.

The creation of the database will enable California to join a national database that supporters say will help inform decision-makers about the magnitude, trends and characteristics of violent deaths in a particular state or community.

The bill was supported by a host of medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, California; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Center; Physicians for Social Responsibility; and the National Association of Social Workers.

California in the past participated in the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), a federal program that collects data on violent deaths. But the state hasn’t done so since 2008 because of lack of funding.

The state has tentatively qualified for federal funding to resume its participation in the national database, according to the Senate floor analysis last month.

Because the department previously participated in the national program, it has an existing database that could be used to run the program, with only minor IT costs anticipated for any upgrades or expansion of the database, according to the bill analysis. The cost to collect and analyze the data, as well run reports, was estimated to be $460,000 a year, with another $300,000 to reimburse counties and law enforcement agencies who provide information.