Pennsylvania Violent Death
Reporting System (PA-VDRS)
The Pennsylvania Violent Death Reporting System (PAVDRS) is a state-level surveillance system funded through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The PAVDRS program collects data on all suicides, homicides, undetermined deaths, and accidental firearm deaths occurring in the state. The program gathers detailed, accurate, and timely data that can be used to inform violence prevention efforts throughout the Commonwealth.
According to CDC guidelines, PAVDRS data must only be collected from death certificates, coroners/medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies. Source documents include coroner and autopsy reports, toxicology results, police incident reports, official press releases, crime lab reports, and affidavits of probable cause. These sources contribute to a comprehensive understanding of each violent death.
PAVDRS data connects basic demographic information with details about what was happening in each victim's life prior to their death. The overarching goal is to learn why these deaths occur and where interventions can be most effective in preventing future deaths. PAVDRS staff gather circumstantial information including the victim's history of mental health problems, substance abuse, self-harm, violence towards others, domestic violence, family conflict, financial challenges, legal problems, etc. Staff also gather data about the incident, injury details, weapons, perpetrators, and toxicology.
The PAVDRS program is committed to protecting and ensuring the confidentiality of all victims and their families. PAVDRS staff enter only deidentified data in the CDC system and never release personally identifying information under any circumstances.
The PAVDRS program, together with Violent Death Reporting Systems in all 50 states and some U.S. territories, comprise the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). Every year, the CDC compiles data from each VDRS program to create a massive national data set. The individual VDRS programs are responsible for disseminating state-level data. Both national and state data are used for research, policymaking, and developing violence prevention programs and strategies that will enhance community safety.
Since 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has been working to establish data-sharing partnerships in all 67 counties. As of March 2023, the PAVDRS program receives coroner and medical examiner reports from 46 counties and law enforcement data from all counties. The program has also received letters of support from District Attorneys in 26 counties.