Maine receives federal funding to gather data on violent deaths

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AUGUSTA — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded almost $1 million to Maine to help pay for gathering data on violent deaths using the National Violent Death Reporting System over the next five years.

The grant, which will be disbursed in annual installments of $194,347, will allow the state to accumulate detailed information about the relationships between domestic abuse, homicide and suicide, Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills said in a news release announcing the funding.

The data collected will supplement the work of groups such as the Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel, which examines domestic abuse homicides in attempt to understand how such tragedies can be prevented. After more than a decade of work, the panel’s observations have led to policy changes aimed at saving lives.

“The Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel observed that very often a homicide occurred when a woman went back to the shared home to retrieve belongings after a breakup,” Mills said. “That small piece of data has led to better safety planning and has saved lives. Knowing the circumstances of violent deaths will help identify the very best prevention efforts.”

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The violent death reporting system helps state and local officials understand when and how violent deaths occur by linking data from law enforcement, coroners and medical examiners, vital statistics and crime laboratories. Using this data, public health practitioners and violence prevention professionals can develop tailored intervention efforts to reduce the incidence of violent deaths.

“I am particularly interested in looking at domestic violence and its effect on the suicides that are not a part of a murder/suicide incident. This grant will allow us to examine the details of all violent deaths in a manner not previously possible,” Mills said in the press statement.

The reporting system provides details on demographics such as age, income and education, the method of injury, the relationship between the victim and an offender, and information about circumstances such as depression, financial stressors or relationship problems. It is the only data system that collects information from sources outside law enforcement on homicides and has the capacity to link hospital and other health records.

Maine’s effort will be spearheaded by Dr. Margaret Greenwald, recently retired chief medical examiner, and Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine. The two doctors previously have collaborated to analyze statistics on drug deaths. Their work on drug deaths is nationally recognized and has provided information to guide drug policy decisions in Maine.

Under the new grant, Maine will receive $194,347 each year for five years for data collection and analysis and will compare its data with similar information from the state of Vermont.

For additional information about NVDRS, see www.cdc.gov/violencePrevention/NVDRS/index.html.

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