Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $250,000)
Strengthening the Medical Examiner-Coroner Operations and Forensic Medicine Library
Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner
1104 N. Mission Road
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Jonathan R. Lucas, M.D. Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner/Department Head
Prior to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner (DME-C) experienced an increased caseload mostly associated with drug-related fatalities and homeless deaths. In 2020, the DME-C experienced a 30% increase in jurisdictional cases, excluding COVID-related deaths. The increase in caseload continued into 2021 with an additional 20% increase in jurisdictional cases in the first six months over the same period in 2020.
There are currently 7 clerical staff who answer telephone calls and determine jurisdiction on reported deaths, and cover a 24-hour a day, seven-day-a-week operation. In 2020, these staff took jurisdiction on 12,616 cases. In addition to determining jurisdiction on reported deaths and fielding calls from families, mortuaries, hospital staff and other external partners these staff, review mortuary release paperwork, and request medical records from various healthcare entities and physician offices. The existing staff receive an average of 13,200 telephone calls per month. The DME-C tracks data of the number of calls, wait times, and length of the call. The callers routinely wait an excessive amount of time, sometimes over 90 minutes before their call for service is answered. This impacts law enforcement officers at a death scene, nurses and doctors at a hospital, and others who may have to tend to patients conduct their investigations or other critical tasks. Family members who call DME-C for case information on a loved one also find themselves in the same wait cycle. calls in the past month. Funding this proposal will allow Los Angeles DMEC to hire two additional Senior Typist Clerks and two part-time Student Professional Workers in 2022-2023 to support the call center.
This project also uses Federal funds to assemble a computerized set of forensic literature resources, including journals, textbooks, and other publications at the host institution, Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner. This collection would be available to employees of Los Angeles County such as medical examiners, criminalists, and detectives for use in casework as well as to create new scientific knowledge. This would present an opportunity for everyday forensic practitioners to use the latest developments in their everyday casework.
The forensic pathology literature is not widely read and tends to be dispersed among many locations. It would be of great value to forensic pathologists, criminalists, death investigators, and toxicologists to have a large source of forensic literature located in one place.