State By State Advocacy

The 1970s and ‘80s saw the emergence of violence and suicide as public health concerns. It was also during that time that public health officials started talking about the need to survey, classify and track data on violent deaths on a national level so that they might be prevented.  In the late 1990s, that data system — the predecessor to the NVDRS — was created.

Societal costs of injury-related morbidity and mortality were estimated at $260 billion in 1995.  Given the staggering costs, the Committee on Injury Prevention and Control was appointed by the Institute of Medicine in March 1997, with funding from several private foundations. The committee was directed to "make recommendations intended to further develop the field of injury prevention and control and to reduce the burden of injury in America."

The Committee on Injury Prevention and Control released its report, Reducing the Burden of Injury: Advancing Prevention and Treatment, in which it suggested a detailed, linked tracking system for all homicides and suicides in the United States, similar to the Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Six foundations pooled private money to fund a pilot program called the National Violent Injury Statistics System (NVISS). The Harvard School of Public Health provided technical leadership for NVISS, with assistance from officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of the methods and information gathered by the NVDRS today were established by the original NVISS program.

Thirteen NVISS sites across the country began collecting comprehensive, multi-source data on violent deaths. The results were appreciable almost immediately, revealing facts about violence that had not previously been recognized, such as the findings that one-third of youth suicides were associated with same-day crisis events, and that two-thirds of men who killed their intimate partner with a firearm committed suicide during the incident.

The system demonstrated that compiling such data was both feasible and valuable for a better understanding of violence. As knowledge grew, Harvard School of Public Health hosted a consensus meeting with public health experts, federal agency stakeholders, violence prevention groups and private foundations, where it was decided that the CDC would direct a publicly funded system to track all violent deaths. The scope and approach of the NVDRS were established, and CDC was named to lead the program. The CDC estimated that full 50-state coverage, including the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories, would cost $20 million annually.

Congress made its first appropriation to the CDC for NVDRS, which was funded in six states: Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina and Virginia. Nearly 20 states had applied to the CDC for the grants.

Congress appropriated additional funds to the CDC to expand NVDRS to seven more states: Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. These seven states were chosen from a field of 16 that had applied to the CDC for funding.

Congress appropriated enough funds to the CDC to expand NVDRS to four additional states out of the 10 that applied: California, Kentucky, New Mexico and Utah.

NVDRS received $3.34 million and expansion leveled off, leaving about two-thirds of the country excluded from NVDRS data. CDC published findings drawn from the original six NVDRS participating states. Results showed an increase in 2003 homicide and suicide rates over 2002 rates.

Federal funding remained level. CDC released two more reports on NVDRS data that focused on homicides and suicides. New studies, published in the journal Injury Prevention, identified patterns of violent death in America, leading to effective prevention strategies. At least six NVDRS states released comprehensive suicide prevention plans with the assistance of NVDRS data.

Federal funding remains level. The National Violence Prevention Network is formally established in 2007 to increase federal funding for NVDRS to expand the program to all 50 states by 2015. Founding members are among the more than 35 national violence prevention, law enforcement, public health and suicide prevention organizations that support NVDRS.

Federal funding increases by over $7 million for NVDRS as a result of advocacy efforts by local, state, and national public health organizations and as a response to increasing media attention on violent deaths in the United States.  The NVDRS funding level is set at $11 million, allowing nearly half of state health departments to implement this important program. An additional 14 states were brought into the program bringing the the total to 32 states.

Federal funding remains level to fund NVDRS for a total of 32 states to collect information about violent deaths.

Federal funding increases by an additional $5 million as part of the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The bill also removed problematic language that would have barred NVDRS from collecting firearms. This additional funding allowed for the expansion of NVDRS for an additional 10 states and territories for a total of 42 states and territories.