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Jeffco coroner in group with other Denver area medical examiners

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By AJ Vicens

Jeffco’s coroner has joined other Denver area medical examiners in a group dedicated to developing training practices and other procedures.

Even though a statewide coroners group existed, the metro area medical examiners began gathering about a year ago to discuss issues relevant to their more urban jurisdictions.

Katherine Loughry-Stemp, who was elected Jeffco coroner in 2007, recently asked the county commissioners to endorse her membership in the group.

As a member of the Metro Area County Coroners and Medical Examiners, Loughry-Stemp has been part of everything from developing a standard education level for incoming investigators to coming up with a protocol for reporting infant deaths to Angel Eyes, formerly the Colorado SIDS Program.

Her membership in the association doesn’t cost the county any money, but Loughry-Stemp wanted to get formal recognition of the group and its efforts from the Jeffco commissioners.

"We're going to get together whether it's approved or not," Loughry-Stemp told the commissioners Dec. 16, eliciting laughter from everyone in the briefing room.

Commission Chairwoman Kathy Hartman said she was unaware of the association and recommended the group do a better job publicizing its efforts.

Loughry-Stemp said in an interview that the association will help metro area death investigators develop routine practices and serves a forum for problems or new ideas.

Metro-area counties deal with a much higher workload, she added, noting that Jeffco sometimes has more deaths in a day than some Colorado counties have in a year.

In a presentation to the commissioners during the 2009 budget deliberations, the coroner compared her office’s workload to that of other area coroners. The Jeffco coroner’s office handles roughly 500 deaths for every full-time employee annually, compared to 376 for every full-time employee in the Denver medical examiner's office.

The commissioners authorized Loughry-Stemp to hire two new investigators in 2009 because her office's workload was becoming unmanageable.

"We had to do something immediately," she said. "Now we're doing it."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.