Office of Justice Programs (OJP) / Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Federal Interagency Medicolegal Death Investigation Working Group (MDI-WG) Resource Page
The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established this Medicolegal Death Investigation (MDI) Federal Interagency working group (MDI-WG) to coordinate Federal initiatives to strengthen the MDI system and support death investigation services practiced by medical examiner and coroner offices (ME/Cs) across the United States. The MDI-WG commenced in March 2018, is co-chaired by senior leadership from OJP and HHS, and builds upon the work of prior Federal MDI working groups.
The MDI-WG's mission is to identify both short- and long-term goals to develop and implement programmatic activities that support the MDI system, that in turn, support Federal public safety and public health national initiatives and strategies. Activities may include:
- Developing technologies/systems to facilitate information/data sharing between ME/C offices; toxicology laboratories; and Federal, State, and local entities, with specific focus on combating the opioid crisis;
- Addressing the shortage of forensic pathologists;
- Coordinating MDI research priorities;
- Strengthening drug death investigations;
- Strengthening drug death data reporting mechanisms; and
- Supporting post-mortem toxicology screening and analysis, particularly for novel synthetic drugs.
OJP: Howard Spivak, M.D., Deputy Director, National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
HHS: Chris Jones, PharmD., M.P.H., Director of the National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Jonathan McGrath, Ph.D., M.S.F.S, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Senior Policy Analyst, Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences (OIFS)
Margaret Warner, Ph.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)
OJP/HHS Federal Interagency MDI-WG background information
Current Federal MDI Activities and Resources
The following Federal programs and grant-funding opportunities support MDI activities. The table of contents links to program-specific information below.
Table of Contents:
- DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (DOJ)
- National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
- NIJ Death Investigation Home Page
- Strengthening the Medical Examiner-Coroner System Program
- Paul Coverdell National Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program
- Research and Development in Forensic Science for Criminal Justice Purposes Program
- Research and Evaluation in Publicly Funded Forensic Laboratories Program
- Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE)
- National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)
- Research and Evaluation on Drugs and Crime Program
- Bureau of Justice and Statistics (BJS)
- Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)
- Office for Victims for Crime (OVC)
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
- National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
- DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (HHS)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS)
- Applied Research to Address Emerging Public Health Priorities
- National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS)
- National Vital Statistics System (NVSS)
- Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Case Registry (SUID)
- Sudden Death in the Young Case Registry (SDY)
- Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch (IDPB)
- Health Resources & Services Administration
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD (NTSB)
- NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY (NIST)
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OJP/HHS MDI-WG BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Given that several Federal agencies rely on MDI data generated by State and local agencies, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) chartered a MDI Fast-Track Action Committee (FTAC) working group in 2015. This Committee was chartered to identify and recommend strategic policy measures that could be implemented to improve the quality, uniformity, and availability of MDI data and to maximize the utility of the data for Federal purposes. The FTAC MDI-WG's work resulted in the report "Strengthening the Medicolegal Death Investigation System: Improving Data Systems (September 2016)" [PDF Size: 364.16 KB].
A subsequent MDI working group was formed in 2016 by OSTP/NSTC in coordination with DOJ and HHS to:
- Enable broad interagency consideration of MDI recommendations for the accreditation of ME/C offices and certification of MDI personnel, and
- Consider additional ways to strengthen the MDI system based on exchange of information and discussion of MDI-related science and technology needs among the agencies.
The work of this MDI-WG resulted in the report "Strengthening the Medicolegal-Death-Investigation System: Accreditation and Certification— A Path Forward (December 2016)" [PDF Size: 426.49 KB].
The current OJP/HHS MDI-WG includes representation from several of the Federal agencies that participated in the first two working groups.
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DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (DOJ)
National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
NIJ Death Investigation Home Page
NIJ supports the community of death investigation professionals by providing training, disseminating best practices for death investigation (including a "Guide to Death Scene Investigation"), and funding research and development.
NIJ has funded a number of projects in forensic pathology, including estimating the post-mortem interval, using molecular autopsies to investigate unexplained deaths, studying the impact of the post-mortem interval and body temperature on magnetic resonance imaging, and interpreting patterned injuries in death investigation. To learn more about these projects, please visit: NIJ's Death Investigation webpage.
Strengthening the Medical Examiner-Coroner System Program
The Strengthening the Medical Examiner-Coroner System program is a competitive grant program designed to support the enhancement of MDI services and increase the supply of forensic pathologists nationwide.
Through this program, NIJ will support grants in two focus areas by:
- Supporting forensic pathology fellowships, and
- Providing resources necessary to achieve accreditation.
Paul Coverdell National Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program
The Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants program (the Coverdell program) awards grants to States and units of local government to improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science and medical examiner/coroners' offices services. Funds received under the Coverdell program can be used 1) to improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science and medical examiner/coroner services; 2) to eliminate a backlog in the analysis of forensic evidence; 3) to train, assist, and employ forensic laboratory personnel as needed to analyze forensic evidence; 4) to educate and train forensic pathologists; 5) to fund MDI systems to facilitate accreditation of medical examiner and coroner offices and certification of medicolegal death investigators; and 6) to address emerging forensic science issues and emerging forensic science technology.
Research and Development in Forensic Science for Criminal Justice Purposes Program
NIJ's Research and Development in Forensic Science for Criminal Justice Purposes program directs the findings of basic scientific research; research and development in broader scientific fields applicable to forensic science; and ongoing forensic science research toward the development of highly discriminating, accurate, reliable, cost-effective, and rapid methods for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of physical evidence for criminal justice purposes. NIJ addresses this through supporting projects that will 1) increase the body of knowledge to guide and inform forensic science policy and practice, or 2) lead to the production of useful material(s), device(s), system(s), or method(s) that have the potential for forensic application.
This program's goals are:
- Fundamental/Basic Research Goal: Improve the understanding of the accuracy, reliability, and measurement validity of forensic science disciplines.
- Applied Research Goal: Increase knowledge or understanding necessary to guide criminal justice policy and practice related to the forensic sciences.
- Development Goal: Produce novel and useful materials, devices, systems, or methods that have the potential for forensic application for criminal justice purposes.
Through the NIJ Forensic Science Technology Working Group (TWG), NIJ reaches out to the forensic science practitioner community to identify, discuss, and prioritize operational needs and requirements. These needs and requirements help inform NIJ's planned and ongoing research and development activities, and ensure that future research and development investments meet practitioner-driven needs. For more information and updates on identified needs and requirements, please visit: Forensic Science TWG: Operational Requirements.
Research and Evaluation in Publicly Funded Forensic Laboratories Program
The Research and Evaluation in Publicly Funded Forensic Laboratories program funds projects that direct the findings of research and evaluation toward identifying the most efficient, accurate, reliable, and cost-effective methods for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of physical evidence for criminal justice purposes. These findings can also be used to inform the forensic community of best practices through the evaluation of existing laboratory protocols and can have a direct and immediate impact on laboratory efficiency and assist in making laboratory policy decisions.
As part of this program, applicant laboratories and ME/Cs are encouraged to consider funding a postgraduate (master's or doctorate) fellowship as part of their proposal. Labs that are interested in connecting with postgraduate researchers and the anticipated lab research projects are listed here: Connecting Postgraduate Researchers with Publicly Funded Forensic Laboratories. Examples of research projects include toxicology, crime scene investigation and processing, crime scene documentation, and controlled substances. Postgraduate researchers are encouraged to reach out to these labs to express your interest, provide background information, and to assist the laboratory in preparing an application.
Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE)
The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE), led by RTI International and supported through a Cooperative Agreement from NIJ, supports the implementation of new forensic technology and best practices by end users in the criminal justice community. FTCoE is dedicated to elevating the status of forensic science through advancing technology, sharing knowledge, and addressing challenges.
FTCoE has a webpage, Pathology & Medicolegal Death Investigation, with specific resources such as webinars, reports, and other information for disaster victim identification, medicolegal death investigation, and pathology. FToCE also developed the "Opioid Crisis—A Public Health Enemy Webinar Series" in 2017–2018 that brings a multifaceted perspective to how diverse criminal justice disciplines are addressing these challenges; sharing their knowledge; and advancing science, technology, and law.
National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)
Funded by NIJ and managed in partnership with the University of North Texas Health Science Center's UNT Center for Human Identification, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) brings together law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners, forensic experts, families, and the public to help resolve missing and unidentified person cases throughout the nation. NamUs provides criminal justice users a secure, online system to store, share, and compare sensitive case information, and a public component allows family members and other public stakeholders a mechanism to report cases and participate in the search for potential matches.
The NamUs database currently contains:
- 13,303 published missing person cases,
- 11,491 published unidentified person cases, and
- 3,737 cases of unclaimed decedents identified by name but whose next of kin have not been located for death notification.
Research and Evaluation on Drugs and Crime Program
NIJ supports the Administration's efforts to combat drug trafficking, markets, and use of illegal drugs―including prescription drug diversion― through research and capacity building for law enforcement, forensic laboratories, medical examiners and coroners, prosecutors, and other public safety and public health stakeholders. NIJ's Drugs and Crime Research Portfolio furthers DOJ's priorities, such as to combat the Nation's opioid epidemic, and reduce violent and other drug-related crime, through research that promotes effective law enforcement, court, and corrections responses to illegal drug markets. This includes research on ways to deter, investigate, and disrupt drug markets, as well as to prevent or reduce drug-related crime and violence. Projects range from policy analyses of the impact of marijuana and other drug legislation on the criminal justice system, to prosecutor led diversion programs, and veterans and other problem solving courts, designed to reduce relapse and recidivism with cost savings.
FY 2017 awards issued under the Drugs and Crime program include the following:
- Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Heroin and Crime Initiative: Informing the Investigation and Prosecution of Heroin-Related Overdose. Evaluates a Heroin-Involved Drug Investigation protocol (HIDI) that guides medical examiners and law enforcement in evidence collection and preservation to improve manslaughter prosecutions of drug dealers after an overdose death. The purpose is to improve the HIDIs ability to secure faster indictments and successful manslaughter prosecutions of drug dealers after an overdose death.
- Toxicological Time Travel: Retrospective Datamining of Analytical Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry Data for Evaluating the Rise and Fall of Novel Opioid and Fentanyl Analog Use in the United States. Uses data mining project to examine archived toxicology results from suspected drug-related deaths and drug-impaired driving cases originating from 40 states since January 2016, producing time-course trend reports and geographic distribution heat maps that detect emerging opioids and other drug combinations.
- This project, conducted by the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education, began documenting the first known reports of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) in the United States through analysis of biological fluids in May 2018. Reports are intended to assist the forensic science community in the rapid identification of NPS in casework and complement a project for NPS discovery from seized materials, supported by the DOJ Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
- Reports and updates from The Center for Forensic Science Research and Education (CFSRE).
- Delaware Opiate Metric Intelligence Project. Addresses the need for timely drug intelligence and community surveillance capabilities required by law enforcement, medical examiners, and other agencies by developing a platform that integrates Prescription Drug Monitoring Program data with drug-related crime, drug overdose, and other potential drugs and crime indicators.
- Identifying and Informing Strategies for Disrupting Drug Distribution Networks: An Application to Opiate Flows in Pennsylvania. Studies heroin, fentanyl, and other drug distribution networks in urban and rural Pennsylvania counties to maximize law enforcement and community efforts to disrupt the supply of illegal opioids.
NIJ Section | DOJ Section | Table of Contents
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
Census of Medical Examiners and Coroners' Offices (CMEC)
The Census of Medical Examiners and Coroners' Offices (CMEC) is a census of all publicly funded offices conducting medicolegal death investigation (MDI) in the United States. The first CMEC was conducted in 2004. NIJ is coordinating with BJS and OJP/HHS MDI working group members to ensure the survey instrument accurately reflects current activities and initiatives in the MDI and forensic sciences since the 2009 National Academy of Sciences report. BJS plans to field the CMEC in 2019. It will gather information on staffing, budgets, caseloads, resources, policies, and procedures of medical examiner and coroners' offices. BJS made the award to the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in October 2017.
DOJ Section | Table of Contents
Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Training and Technical Assistance Center (PDMP-TTAC)
The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) provides an array of services, support, resources, and strategies to PMDPs, Federal partners, and other stakeholder to further PDMP efforts and effectiveness in combating the misuse, abuse, and diversion of prescription drugs. TTAC maintains a website with extensive information concerning PDMPs around the country. The website contains detailed profiles on each State PDMP; training and technical guides; presentations from TTAC-hosted conferences and webinars; profiles on BJA grantees; and information about interstate data sharing, including the RxCheck Hub. In addition, TTAC maintains a database of PDMP information detailing the contacts, policies, technological capabilities, and links to each State's laws and regulations.
Prescription Monitoring Program Center of Excellence at Brandeis, Notes from the Field: "Drug-Related Deaths in Virginia: Medical Examiner Use of PMP Data" [PDF Size: 300.34 KB]
Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program (COAP)
The purpose of the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program (COAP) is to provide financial and technical assistance to States, units of local government, and Indian tribal governments to plan, develop, and implement comprehensive efforts to identify, respond to, treat, and support those impacted by the opioid epidemic. There are six application categories in the FY 2018 COAP solicitation [PDF Size: 502.70 KB], with Category 6 supporting information-sharing partnerships for access to timely and accurate data. Category 6 provides funding to form multidisciplinary action groups that include law enforcement representatives, State or local health departments, State medical and pharmacy boards, prosecutors, medical examiner/coroner offices, forensic science laboratories, probation and parole officers, drug court representatives, child welfare representatives, local drug treatment providers, and community organizations. These action groups should leverage information from a variety of public health and public safety data sources to analyze substance abuse issues and identify potential solutions from public health, treatment, and public safety perspectives.
Included in the allowable uses of funding is the following:
- Support the timely collection of data from medical examiner and coroner offices, forensic science laboratories (including seized drug analysis and toxicology analysis), and crime scenes and combine these data with other data sets, including fatal and non-fatal overdoses and PDMP records.
BJA Section | DOJ Section | Table of Contents
Office for Victims for Crime (OVC)
Vicarious Trauma Toolkit
The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT) was developed on the premise that exposure to the traumatic experiences of other people—known as vicarious trauma—is an inevitable occupational challenge for the fields of victim services, emergency medical services, fire services, law enforcement, and other allied professionals; however, organizations can mitigate the potentially negative effects of trauma exposure by becoming vicarious trauma-informed.
The VTT includes tools and resources tailored specifically to these fields that provide the knowledge and skills necessary for organizations to address the vicarious trauma needs of their staff. To begin exploring the VTT, select one of the disciplines below and visit the comprehensive Compendium of Resources.
The Vicarious Trauma—Organizational Readiness Guide (VT–ORG) is the starting point for organizations that want to become vicarious trauma-informed and proactively address the impact of exposure to the trauma experiences of others. VT-ORG can be used to assess agency's current capacity as a vicarious trauma-informed organization and prioritize your needs, then used to locate resources in the toolkit to take important next steps to address gaps.
Although VTT content can be applied to a broader range of disciplines, there is some concern that the publication excludes a broader scope of victim-serving professionals, volunteers, and community groups (e.g., medical examiners, school staff, court personnel, faith-based organization workers). In response, on June 14, 2018, OVC posted a solicitation for the FY 2018 Vicarious Trauma Response Initiative [PDF Size: 273.83 KB]. This solicitation will award a cooperative agreement to develop and provide training and technical assistance for the highly collaborative and multifaceted strategy outlined in the solicitation. The recipient is expected to integrate and apply perspectives and expertise from a variety of victim-serving disciplines, organizations, experts, and local communities to buffer and mitigate the impact of vicarious trauma. The project's purpose is to improve public safety; support local communities; strengthen responses to crime victims; and support victim service providers, first responders (e.g., law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services), and other allied professionals and volunteers. "Other allied professionals" is a term that refers to all others who work to support crime victims, including, but not limited to: community-based volunteers; faith-based providers; interpreters and translators; health providers; prosecutors, judges, and court staff; school personnel; and crime scene investigators and medical examiners.
Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery and Resources – Toolkit
Previous experiences with mass violence and terrorism indicate that advanced planning, preparation and developing, and maintaining multidisciplinary partnerships better prepare communities to respond to victims in the most timely, effective, and compassionate manner possible. In recognition of this need, OVC, in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Office of Victim Assistance, and DOJ's Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism, has developed a toolkit, Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources – Toolkit, that provides supplies victim service providers with the framework, strategies, and resources to conduct planning and preparation ahead of an incident and mitigate the impact of future acts on victims. Additionally, this toolkit provides resources to aid communities' response to victims even if they have not planned for an incident. The toolkit has four sections: Partnerships & Planning, Response, Recovery, and Tools. The Partnerships & Planning section reviews how to create and maintain partnerships, address resource gaps, and develop victim assistance protocols. The Response and Recovery sections cover how to use the protocols after an incident of mass violence or terrorism. The Tools section includes checklists, samples, a glossary, and a compendium of victim assistance resources.
OVC Section | DOJ Section | Table of Contents
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS)
The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) collects results from drug chemistry analyses conducted by State, local, and Federal forensic laboratories across the country and provides timely and detailed analytical results of drugs seized by law enforcement. The NFLIS program is expanding to include two additional continuous drug surveillance programs; one that collects drug-related mortality data from medical examiner and coroner offices (NFLIS-ME/C), and one that collects drug testing results from toxicology laboratories (NFLIS-Tox). This data will be used to supplement and complement the current information from drug cases submitted to and analyzed by the Nation's forensic drug laboratories (NFLIS-Drug).
Synthetic Opioids Real-Time Communication Network (Synth-Opioids@usdoj.gov)
The DEA Synthetic Opioids Real-Time Communication Network administered by the Southeast Laboratory connects forensic chemists, toxicologists, coroners, medical examiners, and other stakeholders to address the analytical challenges associated with emerging and novel synthetic opioids. Through this growing network of members from across the United States and internationally, scientific data and analytical approaches are being shared for the detection and identification of synthetic opioids many of which are structurally similar substances. The collective scientific expertise across the various disciplines is a powerful tool in overcoming the analytical difficulties associated with new emerging compounds as they are being analyzed.
Seized-drugs chemists, medical examiners, coroners, and toxicologists are able to quickly communicate questions and tap into an abundance of existing forensic knowledge regarding the analysis of synthetic opioids in overdose deaths and DUI cases. For example, a toxicologist or a seized-drugs chemist in an area where fentanyl analogues are just emerging may ask for information in how to address analytical challenges with the instrumentation and equipment available in their respective laboratories. Network members (possibly another toxicologist or a seized- drugs chemist) respond to the query, thus providing recommendations and sharing their own experiences in real-time.
The assistance provided in this network helps laboratories (federal, state, local, and private) rapidly identify unknown substances, highlight challenges associated with low level and under-reported substances, and facilitate a collaborative effort in combating the opioid crisis. For access and participation in this network, please send your request to Synth-Opioids@usdoj.gov or to Associate Laboratory Director Agnes Winokur at Agnes.D.Winokur@usdoj.gov.
DOJ Section | Table of Contents
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (HHS)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS)
CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance program (ESOOS) currently funds 32 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) to provide more timely and comprehensive data on fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses and risk factors associated with fatal overdoses. ESOOS originally funded 12 states in September 2016 and grew to 32 states and D.C. in September 2017. Also, in September 2017, through an ESOOS program expansion, CDC awarded approximately $4.7 million to states and D.C. to directly support medical examiners and coroners, with funds directed toward comprehensive toxicology testing of suspected drug overdose deaths (at least 60% of funds), including testing for emerging synthetic opioids. Funds may also be used by awardees to enhance other surveillance activities, including linking data sources, improving timeliness of nonfatal and fatal overdose data, and CDC-approved innovative projects.
Applied Research to Address Emerging Public Health Priorities
In 2017, CDC awarded more than $400,000 in seed funding, under Applied Research to Address Emerging Public Health Priorities, to support pilot projects that help strengthen death investigation and surveillance systems. For example: 1) develop data standards and data access mechanisms to help medical examiners and coroners (ME/Cs) share critical information for deaths of public health importance; 2) expand adoption of standards-based, scalable, and software-as-a-service electronic case management systems for ME/Cs; 3) identify ways existing ME/C case management systems can be enhanced to help promote interoperability—automated, meaningful, and multi-directional exchange and use of data—and enable a coordinated response to multistate, high-priority threats; and 4) integrate electronic ME/C case management systems with State-based Electronic Death Registration systems and other electronic public health systems.
National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS)
The National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) provides States and communities with a clearer understanding of violent deaths to guide local decisions about efforts to prevent violence and track progress over time. NVDRS is the only State-based surveillance (reporting) system that pools data on violent deaths from multiple sources into a usable, anonymous database. These sources include State and local medical examiner, coroner, law enforcement, toxicology, and vital statistics records.
NVDRS covers all types of violent deaths in all settings and for all age groups. NVDRS may include data on mental health problems; recent problems with a job, finances, or relationships; physical health problems; and information about circumstances of death. Such data is far more comprehensive than what is available elsewhere.
National Vital Statistics System (NVSS)
The National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) is the oldest and most successful example of intergovernmental data sharing in Public Health and the shared relationships, standards, and procedures form the mechanism by which the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) collects and disseminates the Nation's official vital statistics. These data are provided through contracts between NCHS and vital registration systems operated in the various jurisdictions legally responsible for the registration of vital events—births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and fetal deaths.
Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Case Registry (SUID)
The Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) Case Registry builds on the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention's System and brings together information about the circumstances associated with SUID cases as well as information about investigations into these deaths. Participating States and jurisdictions use data about SUID trends and circumstances to develop strategies to reduce future deaths.
For more information: Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Sudden Death in the Young Case Registry (SDY)
CDC and the National Institutes of Health collaborate on the Sudden Death in the Young (SDY) Case Registry, which expands the population of the SUID Case Registry to include children and adolescents. The SDY Case Registry was created to increase the understanding of the prevalence, causes, and risk factors for infants, children, and young adults who die suddenly and unexpectedly.
For more information: Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch (IDPB)
The Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch (IDPB) is the primary unit within CDC responsible for conducting laboratory studies and investigations of infectious diseases of unknown cause or origin, and has tests that can identify more than 150 infectious agents (including bacterial, viruses, parasites, and fungi) in formalin-fixed tissue specimens. Medical examiners/coroners (ME/C) and forensic pathologists are often among the first healthcare workers to encounter infectious disease outbreaks and also can identify unexplained deaths of possible infectious etiology. These can be challenging cases to investigate, especially for sudden deaths, when pre-mortem specimens are unavailable, and when traditional laboratory assays have been unsuccessful in identifying a specific agent. For cases with gross or histopathologic features suggestive of an infectious process, ME/C can submit tissue specimens to IDPB in collaboration with state and local health departments. Specific immunohistochemical, molecular, or other assays can be pursued using clinical and epidemiologic information provided by the submitter and the histopathologic features identified in the submitted tissue specimens. IDPB has had a strong partnership with ME/C and forensic pathologists for many years. This partnership, coupled with the use of state-of-the-art technologies, has facilitated explanation of many otherwise unexplained deaths. IDPB evaluates hundreds of cases each year from across the US. Identified diseases have included those of public health importance, such as reportable conditions, vaccine-preventable diseases, and emerging infectious diseases.
If you are a physician or are associated with a government health agency, please see Specimen Submission Guidelines for information on how to submit cases to IDPB for testing.
CDC Section | HHS Section | Table of Contents
Health Resources & Services Administration
National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention - The Child Death Review Case Reporting System
Child Death Review (CDR) is a process where multidisciplinary teams at the community or state level review the circumstances around child deaths to better understand why children die and to identify ways to prevent future deaths. The Child Death Review Case Reporting System (CRS) is a standardized case reporting tool available to states through the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention. Forty-five (45) states now use the CRS to enter data from CDR and Fetal-Infant Mortality Review done by state and local teams. These include deaths due to natural causes as well as unintentional and intentional injury, including deaths related to substance use.
One aspect of the CDR CRS, a web-based application, is the individual case report. The system allows local and State users to enter case data, findings, and review team recommendations; access and download their data; and download standardized reports via the internet. Users are able to complete data analysis and develop their own reports. With data use agreements between States, users may be able to compare their data with other States and with national compilations. In addition, researchers can access data from the CRS for research purposes.
HHS Section | Table of Contents
NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD (NTSB)
Transportation Disaster Assistance Division
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Transportation Disaster Assistance (TDA) Division coordinates Federal government resources to support local and State governments, disaster relief organizations, and transportation carriers to address concerns of survivors, families, and friends following a transportation accident investigated by the NTSB. The TDA Division serves as the primary resource for survivors, families, and friends regarding NTSB investigations. TDA Specialists provide information regarding the NTSB investigative process, and to the maximum extent practicable, updates on the status of existing investigations. TDA Specialists can also assist survivors, families, and friends with accessing available family assistance resources through appropriate organizations.
TDA Training Courses
The TDA Division also works closely with local, State, and Federal agencies, non-governmental and private organizations, and transportation carriers during the preparedness phase of the disaster management cycle to assist with planning an effective family assistance response following transportation accidents. TDA Specialists can collaborate with the family assistance response community to ensure key concepts and operational aspects of a family assistance operation are understood and implemented during a response.
Training courses relevant to the ME/C community include the following:
- Mass Fatality Incidents for Medicolegal Professionals (TDA403): This course examines the principles of managing the medicolegal response to transportation-related mass fatality incidents. Areas addressed include managing search and recovery operations, the antemortem and postmortem data collection process, quality assurance, and interacting with family members regarding medicolegal issues.
- Managing Transportation Mass Fatality Incidents (TDA 406): This course is designed specifically for the emergency management, law enforcement, and medicolegal communities. Areas addressed include the core principles for managing the transition from first response and life safety operations into the disaster victim recovery and identification process.
NTSB Section | Table of Contents
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY (NIST)
Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC)
The Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC) was launched in 2014 and works to strengthen the nation's use of forensic science by facilitating the development of technically sound forensic science standards and by promoting the adoption of those standards by the forensic science community. OSAC is administered by NIST, but the great majority of its more than 550 members and 250 affiliates are from other government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. Participants have expertise in 25 specific forensic disciplines as well as general expertise in scientific research, measurement science, statistics, law, and policy.
OSAC Medicolegal Death Investigation Subcommittee
The OSAC Medicolegal Death Investigation Subcommittee focuses on standards and guidelines related to sudden, unnatural, unexplained, or suspicious deaths—including homicides, suicides, unintentional fatal injuries, drug-related deaths, and other sudden or unexpected deaths—and determination of the cause and manner of death. Many of the previously produced SWGMDI documents can be found on this website under the subcommittee's "Baseline Documents" section.
OSAC Disaster Victim Identification Subcommittee
The OSAC Disaster Victim Identification Subcommittee focuses on standards and guidelines related to fatality management of a mass fatality incident that involves the scientific identification of human remains.
OSAC Anthropology Subcommittee
The OSAC Anthropology Subcommittee focuses on standards and guidelines related to application of anthropological methods and theory, particularly those relating to the recovery and analysis of human remains. Many of the previously produced SWGANTH documents can be found on this website under the subcommittee's "Baseline Documents" section.
OSAC Toxicology Subcommittee
The OSAC Toxicology Subcommittee focuses on standards and guidelines related to the analysis of biological samples for alcohol, drugs, or poisons, and the interpretation of these results.
NIST Section | Table of Contents | Top of Page