The Pima County Board of Health endorsed the idea of an Office of Violence and Injury Prevention within the Health Department to oversee gun violence prevention, suicide prevention, overdose prevention and mental health services.
“This office would provide ongoing programs and activities designed to assist our community in addressing preventable deaths and injuries from suicides, overdoses and gun violence, while also providing mental health services to at-risk populations,” said Board of Health member Mike Humphrey.
“In 2021, in Pima County there were 84 non firearm related suicides, 240 firearm related deaths (suicides, homicides, undetermined, accidental), and 482 overdose deaths (accidental and undetermined). This number does not include the hundreds of persons hospitalized for gunshot wounds, overdoses, and failed suicide attempts. The cost of those hospitalizations is in the 10s of millions of dollars and are largely covered by public funds.
“These are serious public health problems which must be addressed now and for the foreseeable future. Given this situation, programs and services which address these issues must be permanently woven into the framework of Public Health in Pima County,” he added.
The establishment of this new office would achieve the following:
- Provide data collection, research, training, education and public information on local conditions and issues related to suicide prevention, overdose prevention, gun violence prevention and mental health for use in community-based interventions, advocacy and policy development.
- Better coordinate and maximize the effectiveness of current grant funded, mental health, suicide prevention and overdose prevention along with the newly created gun violence prevention activities within the Health Department.
- Collaborate with ongoing violence and injury prevention activities of the Pima County Sheriff, Pima County Attorney, other county departments, outside public and private agencies and local businesses.
- Serve as the initial step in a process of converting grant funded programs in the Health Department into County funded programs ensuring that these areas are recognized as County priorities, while ensuring financial stability.
- Utilize general fund support to recruit and retain a local public health workforce.
- Provide local funding and control of programs and services to better meets the needs of County residents.
- Increase Pima County recognition and general fund support of the importance of Public Health in protecting the health and safety of our community. Currently only 1% of County general fund support goes to the Health Department. Currently, 23% of the Health Department budget is general fund supported.