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New dashboard offers greater resolution on violent death data in Minnesota

News Release
March 1, 2023

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Health officials today announced the launch of a new dashboard as a comprehensive public health tool for visualizing the state’s violence data. This dashboard is among the first of its kind, making it easier for users to see some of the circumstances related to violent deaths at the county level. It allows policy makers, media and other stakeholders to observe trends in violent deaths over time and among groups of Minnesotans, which can help them develop more effective approaches to prevent such deaths.

The dashboard uses data from the Minnesota Violent Death Reporting System, which pulls together information about violent deaths including suicide, homicide, unintentional firearm, law enforcement intervention or other undetermined violent death between 2015 and 2020.

“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.”

For example, the dashboard indicates that 55% of those dying by suicide during 2015-2020 had a current mental health problem and 48% had a history of mental health treatment. The data suggests opportunities to prevent suicides by increasing the effectiveness of treatments and access to those treatments. The dashboard also suggests that some of the Minnesotans at the highest risk for suicide include American Indian males in their teens and 20s and white men, ages 35-64, in rural areas who have access to guns and less access to mental health care.

The Minnesota Violent Death Reporting System pulls together data from death certificates as well as 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). The new 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.

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.

“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.”

Initiatives to improve public safety are part of Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan’s recent legislative budget proposals. The One Minnesota Budget includes spending $300 million in public safety aid to cities, counties, and tribal governments across the state. To reduce gun violence, the budget proposes universal background checks on all firearm sales, extreme risk protection orders to help remove firearms from those who pose an immediate threat to themselves or others, raising the minimum age for purchasing military-style firearms to 21 years old, banning high-capacity magazines and promoting safe storage of firearms. The budget also includes the Violent Crime Reduction Strategy, a new statewide initiative to address violent crime, and the budget would also establish the Office of Missing and Murdered African American Women to promote the safety and success of Black women and girls.

Some funds would also be used for a statewide campaign to help prevent gun-related injuries and theft. In addition to a statewide education program helping Minnesotans learn how to safely store firearms, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) will continue to provide free cable gun locks across the state at community events. DPS, in partnership with other state agencies, began providing free gun locks and education in 2022 through the “Make Minnesota Safe & Secure” initiative spearheaded by Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan. To date, more than 42,000 free gun locks have been distributed.

If you or someone you know needs crisis supports or is thinking of suicide, call 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The Minnesota Office of Justice Programs also has a list of Minnesota Resources for Crime Victims.  

To learn more, visit the Minnesota Violent Death Reporting System (MNVDRS) Dashboard.


Media inquiries:
Scott Smith
MDH Communications