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STATE OF 208: Population increase in Ada Co. impacting Coroner's Office

Posted: 6:59 PM, Jun 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-01 15:50:43-04

BOISE, Idaho — It's no secret the population in Ada County is growing, but have you ever thought about how that impacts the Coroner's office?

Simply put, more people living in the valley means more people are dying in the valley, and now resources at the Ada County Coroner's Office are stretching thin.

"We are just continuing to get busier and busier," Ada County Coroner Dotti Owens said. "And it's not just Ada, it's the entire state. I've spoken with coroners around the state that would have three or four calls a week in a rural area and now they're at almost full-time."

Since 2011, Owens' office has seen its caseload increase by more than 75% from 325 bodies in 2011 to 575 in 2018. When a big part of your job is to safely store human bodies, it's a pretty big predicament when you simply run out of room.

"We need more cooler space; we're consistently full," Owens said. "If we had any kind of mass fatality incident here whatsoever we would really be struggling. We'd be scrambling."

Right now, they can hold about 20 bodies at a time, but with an overwhelming increase in fatal overdoses and completed suicides, it's a sad reality: space fills up fast.

"Well, what happens is we've got a weekend build up," Owens explained. "So from that Friday afternoon to Monday morning we are completely packed."

On any given Monday, they're likely to have more than a dozen autopsies to perform, plus forensic work coming in from other counties.

With little choice, they'll be expanding their cooler over the next year--a $500,000 project --but Owens says there's just not enough room to grow at their current location.

"We are working with our county commissioners on our master's facility plan, planning for a new facility down the road," Owens said.

One of the driving factors is the desire to increase their staff, something they simply can't do in their current building.

"We are maxed out on space," Owens said. "Our office space is all being occupied. If I needed to hire a third full-time doctor right now, I couldn't do it."

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