Coroner: death investigations on the rise

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- Multiple autopsy reports have the Mesa County Coroner's Office busy. Over the course of three days, officials have taken on at least 10 new death investigations.

"Sometimes we go in cases where it takes just a few minutes and other times like these cases this weekend, it took us hours for each case," said Dr. Dean Havlik, the Mesa County Coroner.

The coroner's office said going from call to call is becoming routine.

"We respond to usually two or three death reports a day," Dr. Havlik said. "In the past two days we saw around, and if you include Friday it was about 10 deaths."

In 2015, the Mesa County Coroner's Office said it responded to fewer than 600 deaths. In 2016, that number rose to 679. This year, they are on course to surpass that number.

"We are going to be seeing over 700 deaths for sure," Dr., Havlik said. "We are at about half the year...we are already over 350."

The coroner's office uses a database to track the deaths they respond to within the county. It allows them to keep an eye on any trends.

"There have been more unusual deaths, more deaths that are sudden and unexpected," Dr. Havlik said.

In addition, he said that natural deaths are on the rise as well. Homicides and drug-related deaths are staying steady.

There is another troubling statistic that is playing a role.

"Our suicide rate is not decreasing like we'd hoped it would, it's actually increasing," he said

The Grand Junction Fire Department said 80 to 90 percent of their calls are medically-related. When first responders get to the scene, they'll call for a coroner if needed.

"This has been the busiest summer we've had," said Derek Sjolund, a spokesperson for the Grand Junction Fire Department. "The call volume has increased as more people move to Grand Junction."

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