Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Yes, folks are dying to get into Coroner's office

It has seemed busier at work. My phone seems to go off a bit more often at night and my staff consultations and media calls continued through my recent brief vacation. So we looked at the numbers:

Last year (December 1, 2006 through March 12, 2007) we had a total of 1086 deaths looked at through our office, with 60 classified as “inquiries” and 54 classified as “inquest” cases. Inquiries are somewhat extended investigations to make decisions whether the case is a “natural” death or should be moved to the inquest category. Inquest cases are full investigations of cases that include questionable deaths, homicides, suicides, accidents and drug intoxication/overdose cases.

This year (December1, 2007 through March 12, 2008) we have looked at a total of 1137 deaths with 56 “inquiry” and 75 “inquest” cases. For the mathophobes, that is about a 40% increase in inquest cases, our most labor intensive case category. That is a huge increase in casework and staff involvement in just a year.

We really haven’t, as yet, looked at the jump in detail as to which categories of death have contributed to this increase. It is, however, my feeling that it is related to increased drug related deaths. For example, at our last case conference (which has replaced our jury inquest) 5 of the 10 deaths we reviewed for manner of death were directly drug-related and it is possible drugs contributed in at least 2 of the others.

We work hard in the office. Thank goodness I have such great staff willing and able to step up to this work load and to perform it most professionally. They are second to none.


Anonymous said...

Interesting to hear that the numbers are on the rise in Lake County. Although I must say, I followed you closely in 2004 - I seem to recall a couple of your campaign tactics being you would "forestall death", obviously and self-admittedly not happening. Another point you made was that you would make access to statistical data more available to the general public. This begs the question, since we are now nearly a quarter into 2008 - why are there no 2007 statistics available? I have some other things that beg questioning, but I will leave that for another day.

Dr. Richard Keller said...

I promised during my campaign that I would work to forestall death and I, with others in my office and other folks in the county, continue to do that work. Granted I am rather impotent to stop the large influx of heroin into our county, but I work on underage drinking prevention, suicide prevention, violence prevention, and other efforts to forestall death (browse through this blog)including working to have a doctor's license suspended who seemingly contributed to the death of some residents in our county. Our office now averages 3-5 youth presentations a month.

The 2007 stats will be up soon. The investigations have to be closed and case conferences held regarding the manner of death for all of the 2007 cases before we can tabulate the data and work with the county to get them posted to our website.