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Q&A With Dotti Owens

The Idaho Statesman Voters Guide

Biography Q&A

I hold a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice (Administration and Criminology) and am currently moving forward with obtaining my PHD in Public Policy and Administrations. Continuing education is crucial for understanding best practices, chain of custody and jurisprudence, policies/procedures and helping to change legislation, education, and being in the forefront of national committees.
This is my first term as the Ada County Coroner. However, during this term, I have been involved in many legislation efforts. This month I was elected President of the Idaho State Coroner Association and chair of Intergovernmental Affairs through Idaho Association of Counties. I also sit on several committees with National Association of Counties (NACo), whom is instrumental in developing policy and procedures throughout various county jurisdictions around the nation.
I am involved in many boards, committees and workgroups on county, state and national level. I also serve on national Death Investigation Standards Boards, and am active in the development of policy and procedure in the Medicolegal Death Investigation field. This last year I was appointed to several committees with the National Association of Counties, which is credited for advocating legislation for counties such as Ada.
I was raised in Idaho and have been in Ada County since 2011. My Idaho roots go deep and I’m an Idaho farm girl at heart.
I currently reside in Meridian with my two girls, one 12 and my special needs daughter who is 22. I also have a daughter that is 26 and son age 25. Both live in Boise

What education and experience do you have to prepare you to be a county coroner?

Prior to my time as Ada County Coroner, I was the Forensic Supervisor and Medicolegal Death Investigator. I started my medicolegal death investigation journey while attending college almost 12 years ago. I have personally investigated and reviewed thousands of scenes ranging from suicides to homicides, child deaths to hospices, each and every one equally as important as the other. In 2011 I obtained my American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigations (ABMDI) certification and am a registered diplomat. I am Board Certified eligible for the ABMDI Fellowship, which I will be testing and obtaining within the next few months, this certification requires 4000 hours of medicolegal death investigation, demonstrating my experience in the field. I have extensive knowledge in all divisions of the office and have led the Ada County Coroner’s Office to becoming the third Coroner’s jurisdiction in the nation, obtaining prestigious accreditations through National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners (IAC&ME) and have also successfully trained my investigations team effectively so that they have obtained their ABMDI.

What would you like to accomplish as ada county coroner?

While continuing my career as the Ada County Coroner, there are many family and community projects that have become the focus for myself and the office. Suicide prevention education has been at the forefront. While many suicide prevention organizations are assisting those in need, the majority are focused on our youth. In reality, the majority of our suicide victims in Ada County are middle age. I will continue my work with local agencies in in finalizing our state suicide mortality workgroup which has been an ongoing joint effort for the last several months.

Along with the suicide epidemic, my position as Coroner has been an eye-opener for the opioid crisis that is consuming both our state and nation. With representatives from the Idaho Drug Courts and other agencies we have recently begun to do “open-talk” community sessions to spread awareness on severity of opioid consumption in our community. In addition to providing accurate facts on opioid abuse, we also offer information for individuals (or families of individuals) looking for help with an opioid addiction.

What is working well in your county's coroner's office? what would you change?

The Ada County Coroner’s Office has been referred to as a “well-oiled machine.” The office functions effectively, efficiently, compassionately and professionally. Over the course of the last 3 ½ years we have revamped and upgraded policy and procedure of all aspects of the office to reflect national standards. All divisions of the office have a specific role and work closely with one another. Many specialties have been developed, for example; multiple family support programs, extensive research through our anthropology program, our internship program and academic outreach to many of the high schools throughout the Treasure Valley. Cross training takes place, utilizing all aspects of the office to benefit our community.

At times, decedents are transported to the ACCO prior to notification of next of kin. Many times this is done out of concern of the integrity of the investigation as well as to protect the decedent from public view. Consequently, we are unable to grant requests made by families to view decedents at our facility. A viewing room would benefit families so that they are not burdened with having to wait days (weekends/holidays) to see their loved ones.

What is needed to keep your office effective and efficient over the next 10 years?

With the growth that Ada County has been experiencing and will continue to experience, our challenges in the next 10 years will be room to expand and the budget required to manage that growth. Currently, my office has outgrown our debilitating facility and we are constantly burdened with power issues, parking challenges, tissue and evidence storage and lack of room for additional employees that will be needed in the future. In order to maintain accreditation’s and quality death investigations, the Ada County Coroner’s Office is going to have to grow with our community.

What is one thing voters should understand about this office that they perhaps don't?

With the growth that Ada County has been experiencing and will continue to experience, our challenges in the next 10 years will be room to expand and the budget required to manage that growth. Currently, my office has outgrown our debilitating facility and we are constantly burdened with power issues, parking challenges, tissue and evidence storage and lack of room for additional employees that will be needed in the future. In order to maintain accreditation’s and quality death investigations, the Ada County Coroner’s Office is going to have to grow with our community.

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