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Q&A With Dotti Owens

“There is nothing more important than being there for families after the loss of a loved one.” –  Dotti

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

Dotti started her medicolegal death investigation journey while attending college over 16 years ago, in Twin Falls Idaho. Later she transitioned to Boise as a Medicolegal Death Investigator and was later promoted to Forensic Supervisor. Eight years ago, she was elected Ada County Coroner and has continued to work hard for Ada County.

Dotti has personally investigated and reviewed thousands of scenes ranging from suicides to homicides, and child deaths to hospices. Each and everyone is equally as important as the other.  In 2011 she obtained certification through the  American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigations (ABMDI) and is currently a registered diplomat. She is board-certified eligible for the ABMDI Fellowship, which she plans on obtaining, time permitting. This certification REQUIRES 4000+ hours of medicolegal death investigation, demonstrating her knowledge, expertise, and experience in the field.

She has extensive knowledge of all divisions within the office. She has led  Ada County to become the third coroner’s jurisdiction in the nation to obtain accreditations through the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), the International Association of Coroners, and Medical Examiners (IACME). Despite challenges, Dotti has maintained the accreditations through county growth and the pandemic.

"What would you like to accomplish as ada county coroner?"

In addition to continuing to successfully operate the coroner’s office, there are many priorities for Dotti moving forward. Overseeing the completion of the new facility with a smooth transition into the new building is important for the success of the office. The Ada County Coroner’s Office has outgrown its current location and the increase in population has affected the caseload and stressed the staff. This move will allow for an increase in staff to adequately respond to growth, thereby alleviating stress and improving the mental health of employees. Dotti has been laying the groundwork for a PTSD program for employees, similar to those available for other First Responder agencies throughout the valley. 

Dotti has also been very active in prevention efforts. In 2021 she brought Man Therapy to Ada County. This suicide prevention campaign targets middle-aged men, our highest demographic of suicides within Ada County. Man Therapy works to provide community support and resources. Because suicide prevention is one of her main focuses, she will continue her work with local agencies in finalizing our state suicide mortality workgroup which has been an ongoing joint effort.

Along with the suicide epidemic, Dotti’s position as Coroner has been an eye-opener for the overdose crisis that is still consuming our community. Dotti has been very vocal for the last eight years to promote responsible prescribing, addiction support, and recently, prevention of Fentanyl deaths, which has surfaced in Ada County and accross the state of Idaho.

"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 the policy and procedures, ensuring that the office continues to function at national standard levels.

All divisions of the office have specific roles 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. 

At times, decedents are transported to the Ada County Coroner’s Office prior to notification of next of kin. Many times, this is done out of concern for 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. Once in the new facility, the Coroner’s Office will be able to grant viewing times to their loved ones immediately.

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

Dotti’s proven track record of eight years of management and leadership has developed the Ada County Coroners Office to be the Efficient and Effective office that it is today. To keep the Ada County Coroner’s Office operating within national standards and certifications, the leadership role of the office MUST be held to the same standards. By retaining the leadership of this office, Dotti’s expertise will allow for these accreditations and certifications to be retained by the county. 

 

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

  • Community members MUST understand that the position of Coroner is not bipartisan. Death investigations are handled the same for every gender, race, age, and party affiliation. The priority of this office is the deceased and their families.
  • Experience is important. Hands-on, day-to-day, medicolegal death investigation experience is essential for not only staff but the leader of the office.
  • This is not an “Administrative” only position. Dotti spends a good majority of her time working on cases, reviewing death certificates, and medical records, and advising as to the facts of these pertinent documents. Dotti is responsible for all quality control of the office, including medical determinations.
  • Partnerships that have been developed are assisting with suicide prevention, overdose prevention, and prosecution alongside federal partners.
  • Dotti will  NEVER sit idol, while “worker bees” do the work. If your heart and soul are not in the job, you shouldn’t be in it. The role of the coroner is far too important to the community.

Leading with Compassion, Professionalism, and Experience.  Q&A with Dotti Owens.

Realize that this position is a matter of life and death, working for the living, by serving the deceased. Our staff are NOT "Worker Bee's" but are compassionate, professional, and knowledgable within their specialty. Please, do your homework.

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