New dashboard gives insight on violent death data in Minnesota

(ABC 6 New) – The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced the launch of a new dashboard as a comprehensive public health tool to examine violent deaths in Minnesota.

The dashboard is a first of its kind interactive tool using data from the Minnesota Violent Death Reporting System (MNVDRS) which pulls together information at the county level about violent deaths including suicide, homicide, unintentional firearm, law enforcement intervention or other undetermined violent deaths between 2015 and 2020.

MDH says the data should be used by public health officials, violence prevention groups, policymakers, journalists, and the general public to observe trends in violent deaths over time to help develop more effective approaches to prevent such deaths.

The MNVDRS pulls together data from death certificates, death investigation reports from medical examiners, coroners and law enforcement. It is a part of the National Violent Death Reporting System, which is overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As such, data displayed on the dashboard may not match other sources of similar information.

The dashboard provides context about violent deaths by collecting more than 600 unique data elements. It includes violent death information regarding relationships, locations, methods and demographics.

“This dashboard gives us more detailed information on which populations are experiencing the tragedy of violent deaths, and what the circumstances are surrounding these deaths,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham. “By pulling this data together into one dashboard, we can better understand where and why these deaths are happening and work with our partners to develop tailored strategies to protect Minnesotans.”

Data on the dashboard indicate some of the following patterns.

  • Homicides and homicide rates spiked in 2020—a trend also observed nationally—while other manners of violent death did not.
  • Firearms were used in 45% of suicide deaths, 65% of homicide deaths and 54% of inter-personal violence homicide deaths. Most firearm deaths, 75%, were suicide. Minnesota has large racial disparities in suicide and homicide rates. Suicide rates in Minnesota are highest among the American Indian population, more than 70% higher than for the white population.
  • Homicide rates in the state are highest among the Black or African American population and the American Indian population, more than 10 times the rate of the white population.
  • Antidepressants were found in the systems of 29.8% of females who died by suicide, compared to 12.1% in males.
  • Most often the victim and suspect in a homicide knew each other.
  • Spouses were suspected as the perpetrator in 21.1% of homicide cases where the victim was female. The victim’s boyfriend or girlfriend was suspected in an additional 15.5% of cases.
  • In homicide deaths, the most common circumstance recorded, 32.9%, was an “argument or conflict” precipitating the death.

The development of the dashboard was made possible with the support of The Joyce Foundation and was designed in partnership with Understory Consulting.

“We’re excited to support this groundbreaking data dashboard and the innovative approach being taken by the Minnesota Department of Health to keep our communities informed with such important and timely information,” said Tim Daly, Joyce’s Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform program director. “This tool will provide us with more accurate data to better understand what is happening in communities and allow us to make more informed policy and practice decisions.”

To view the dashboard, CLICK HERE.