Public Health Package for Gun Safety

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18 states have joined national violence reporting systemPartnering with the University of Washington’s Harborview Medical Center and public health agencies, I proposed today a $371,000 package of initiatives for my committee to consider that would spur research on gun violence and improve the City and County’s response to mental health crises resulting from tragedies.

In addition, I collaborated with local elected officials from small towns and large cities across the state to send a letter today to Governor Inslee, urging him to adopt national standards for tracking and reporting gun violence.

Gun violence is a public health crisis and this funding package enables Seattle to take positive action now. By jump-starting research blocked for so long by the NRA, building the same emergency response system used by the Red Cross, and joining towns across the State to demand better standards for reporting violence, we will increase public safety.

More details about the elements of this package are below.

Public Health Gun Safety Research ($153,000)

The proposed study will evaluate the interrelationships between substance abuse, mental health diagnoses, gun ownership, injury admissions and deaths. The results will provide researchers and medical professionals with the information they need to improve outreach and counseling to prevent injuries from firearms, particularly among vulnerable populations. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and its supporters in Congress have long blocked federal funds from being used for this type of crucial research; City funding will jump-start this research at the local level.

Enhanced Mental Health Emergency Management and Response ($218,000)

The initiative includes a state-of-the-art emergency management, response and triage system for mental health crises that has been used by public health teams in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, by the American Red Cross for natural disasters (the Joplin and Alabama tornadoes in 2011), by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during Superstorm Sandy and by Los Angeles County. The funding will enable the Northwest Healthcare Response Network, through their partner The Foundation for Health Care Equity, to purchase and install this emergency management and response program with Public Health Seattle-King County.

Adopting National Standards for Reporting Violence

Local elected officials from across Washington State signed and sent a letter to Governor Jay Inslee today urging him to issue an Executive Order directing our state to adopt the National Violent Death Reporting System standards. Washington’s participation will provide health professionals, researchers and policy makers with the basic information they need to assess prevention efforts and, most importantly, to determine when and how to prevent future harm and keep residents safe.

Eighteen other states (see map above) already participate in the National Violent Death Reporting System. Overseen by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, this system enables those states to collect, report and analyze data to better understand gun-related deaths and injuries.

These new initiatives come in the wake of the City of Seattle’s call to action for legislators in Olympia to strengthen Washington gun safety laws. On December 17, 2012, the City Council added language to the City’s legislative agenda advocating for a ban on assault weapons; a ban on large capacity ammunition magazines; universal background checks (closing the gun show loophole); trigger locks and safe storage requirements; and micro-stamping technology to improve the capability of police to trace fired bullets.

The Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee, which recently passed legislation placing greater emphasis on the importance of evidence in designing and evaluating programs, will receive a detailed briefing from Dr. Rivara and Dr. Ebel Wednesday, March 6 on the importance of better data and research for improving gun safety in Washington State. The committee will vote on this package of initiatives as part of City’s first quarter supplemental budget legislation.