Since taking office as Dougherty County coroner in January, I have worked steadfastly to carry out the vision I laid out during my campaign: (1) Take the coroner’s office to the next level; (2) Make the coroner’s office not only be a place of bereavement, but a place of restoring hope and faith into the lives of those that have suffered loss, and (3) Bring the job of coroner out of the office, and become an active and proactive force in the community.
In alignment with this vision, I have joined forces with others throughout the community and formed the Suicide Prevention Coalition, which is set to host its first kickoff this month. I also serve as chair of the Mass Fatality Division under the Emergency Management Team. Being a part of this team allowed me to see the need for spiritual support on the Emergency Management Team. Therefore, I formed the Ministry of Support, an organization consisting of local clergymen and spiritual leaders within the community that will respond during times of natural disasters and provide counseling and guidance to those affected by the events.
By re-organizing the coroner’s office, I have decreased the budget of the office by 15 percent and relieved the financial strain being placed on the county’s budget. According to a recent survey posed to the Dougherty County EMS employees, I am knowledgeable and respond promptly to calls, usually arriving within 15 minutes. This helps release the paramedics sooner so that they may respond to other emergency calls. I implemented the CoronerME software, a totally Web-based case management system used by many other coroners and medical examiners. This program enables the office to upload any and all reports, including toxicology reports, autopsies, police reports, EMS/fire reports, photos, audio/video materials, and other forms required for case files. A resource center has also been added to the local office. This center provides material on various subject matters, such as dealing with the loss of a loved one.
With no use of county funds, I have raised awareness around the dangers of texting while driving through graphic and compelling commercials and public service announcements. I also have written several articles that have appeared in local newspapers, covering subject matters such as suicide, single parenting after death, grief, loss and stress.
Finally, the coroner’s office also hosts several interns from the surrounding areas, such as forensic science and pathology majors from Darton State College, Albany State University, and Georgia Southwestern University. Currently, a senior from Westover High School is completing an internship with the office.
With the progress made thus far, I am well on my way toward fulfilling my vision and being true to the promises I made during my campaign.
Michael Fowler is the Dougherty County coroner.