Coroner's office lauded for saving lives

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Frank Schultz
February 3, 2014

JANESVILLE—The Rock County office that handles deaths is being honored for saving lives.

The International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners recently sent a letter of commendation to the Rock County Coroner's office, praising it for reducing the county's suicide rate.

The office runs a suicide-prevention program, with all the deputy coroners speaking regularly about suicide in the community, said Lou Smit, acting coroner.

Rock County had 32 suicides in 2011 but only 17 last year, according to the commendation. In addition, the county has not had a juvenile suicide in 21 months.

The commendation specifically names Smit and Tony Farrell Sr., a volunteer deputy coroner, for their efforts, although Smit said all the deputies are involved.

Smit said the coroner's office also has recorded 42 “saves” over the past 24 months.

A save is when someone who hears one of the presentations recognizes the signs of a potential suicide and stops someone from taking his or her life, or calls a deputy coroner when in crisis.

The deputy coroners give out their phone numbers at the presentations, Smit said.

Two of those saves came in the past few days, Smit said.

“In one case, a person called our office several times following the death of a loved one. Then during the call, they indicated their intent to commit suicide,” Smit wrote in an email.

“My deputy kept that person on the line while I contact the 911 center, and sheriff's deputies were dispatched. …

“The sheriff's deputy expedited his response and was able to aid the individual before anything could happen,” Smit said.

Another case came Sunday night, when a deputy coroner received a call from someone who had heard a juvenile talk about taking his or her life. Law enforcement also intervened in that case, and the juvenile was taken into custody for treatment, Smit said.

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