Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $113,227)
Medicolegal death investigation systems are a crucial component to public health, research, and the criminal justice system. Butte County is a small, rural county in northern California with a population of approximately 220,000 people. The Butte County Coroner’s Office falls under the direction of the Butte County Sheriff-Coroner and is managed by the Chief Deputy Coroner. Autopsies are performed by board-certified forensic pathologists. With the completion of our new, state-of-the-art central morgue and evidence facility in November 2021, we are seeking simultaneous accreditation by the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners (IACME). This would ensure the office is meeting national standards for death investigation and forensic pathology services for the citizens of northern California as we plan to expand our services to include other surrounding counties in northern California.
The County has faced some major hardships with wildfires that have highlighted the importance of medicolegal death investigations, most notably the Camp Fire in 2018 that killed 86 people and the Bear Fire in 2020 that killed 16 people. This led to the implementation of rapid DNA for identification purposes with the use of ANDE rapid DNA identification system. Butte County is unique as it maintains a close affiliation with the Chico State Forensic anthropology program, the only forensic anthropology program in the western United States.
In order to achieve IACME accreditation, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office Coroner Unit needs to develop and implement written policies and procedures for the morgue facility, investigations, histology, toxicology, reports and record keeping, personnel and staffing, and support services and consultants. With the completion of a new morgue facility, BCSO will have the proper facility, body storage and equipment to be able to achieve accreditation. Additional funding is needed to develop these written policies and procedures and to provide proper death investigation training to meet the standards for accreditation. This accreditation would ensure accurate and credible death investigation for the citizens of northern California and would strengthen the quality of the coroner services by ensuring that professional standards are met and maintained.