Standardize mortality data

Prevention, Early Intervention, & Youth
Emergency & Crisis Response
social determinants of health
No items found.
No items found.
Coverage & Standards
No items found.
Federal department
Health and Human Services
house committees
No items found.
senate committees
No items found.


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) should work with states to standardize procedures and reporting of drug-related and suicide deaths.


Currently, mortality data for both suicide and drug overdoses lack standardization and are significantly delayed, which limits our ability to respond to these public health crises. As recommended by the 2017 Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, the CDC should work with states to “develop and implement standardized rigorous drug testing procedures, forensic methods, and appropriate toxicology instrumentation in investigating drug-related deaths.”[1] The CDC should do the same for investigating possible suicides, particularly given the difficulty of distinguishing unintentional and intentional drug overdoses.[2]

To assist with standardization across jurisdictions, Congress should significantly increase funding for local medical examiners and tie federal funding to standardized processes and reporting to ensure the availability of near-real-time data reporting. Funding should also be tied to standardized policies that allow access to linkable mortality data for purposes in the public interest, such as surveillance, research, and clinical quality improvement. Federal funding is particularly urgent given the chronic underfunding of many state and local medical examiners’ offices.[3]