Suicide Investigator position at Franklin County Coroner’s Office first of its kind

Columbus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Central Ohio advocates hope a first of its kind position will help pave the way for suicide prevention. The Franklin County Coroner’s Office will soon hire a suicide investigator to accompany the coroner’s medical death investigators to possible suicide scenes.

“The whole purpose of this is for them to get more information… in order to see if there are any commonalities, areas perhaps Franklin County needs to address in order to prevent suicides in the future,” Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz explained.

The new 2-year trial position is funded by a $150,000 grant from the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation. Tuesday, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners also passed a resolution in support of the role.

“This will be a game-changer for our county,” said Michelle Vargas, the director of the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Vargas explained Franklin County saw a decrease in suicide deaths in 2020 compared to the previous year. However, ages 65 and older and ages 25 and younger both saw increased rates of suicide, with both groups experiencing increased isolation and disconnection from services.

“Now we’re concerned about people’s transition back to work, people’s transition back to school,” she said.

Dr. Ortiz added, “The same issues that were there before 2020 are here now… and maybe more magnified after 2020.”

Vargas explained funding for suicide prevention services is often contingent on data showing a need, but gathering the data can be a challenge in itself.

“If we get this data then we can also demonstrate the need for mental health services,” she said.

The coroner’s office plans to work with partner agencies on the state and local level to launch a suicide fatality review, digging deeper into the risk factors and prevention strategies for suicide.

“Usually coroners’ offices do not have positions in prevention, and that’s pretty much what this is,” Dr. Ortiz said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is help.

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