Melancon gives parish council coroner's updates
St. Mary Parish Coroner Dr. Eric Melancon gave the parish council an update on progress as the coroner’s office.
He presented a slideshow of those updates.
Melancon outlined several priorities, staring with services. So far in the first quarter of 2019 there have been 95 medical examiner cases, not including all deaths in the parish, just those referred to the coroner’s office.
He said in the future he’d like to include all deaths in the parish to “know as public officials what people are dying of. That number is probably significantly higher, I don’t know the number because it’s not reported.”
The coroner’s office handles more than just autopsies. There are mental health services, orders of protective custody, holds medical coalition meetings in association with Fit, Fun & Fabulous, television program “Coroner’s Corner” and attending conferences.
Melancon has met with all law enforcement agencies and established a call-out protocol, based on complaints he has heard that the office was not at an incident scene until late. “Part of that it was a couple of hours before we were called,” he said. “One reason was the death certification,” which often included waiting for Acadian Ambulance to arrive and pronounce a person dead.
Prescription drugs are often left in the homes of a deceased person, which concerns him in terms of redistribution of schedule II drugs and possible overdose or deaths. They are now being disposed of properly, he said.
Sexual assault kits are being used but not always charged, which can lead to long-term issues if there is a victim who wishes to report the crime later. The coroner’s office should keep custody of those, he said.
He said accurate reporting of causes of death to the news media needs to be more specific and accurate.
Melancon also touched on education, disaster management, the parish morgue’s size and working with other parishes in applying for grants. Orders for Protective Custody and Physician’s Emergency Certificates will get more attention, he said, and working with those involved.
He said the parish has moved up from 44 to 42 in health care in Louisiana. The medical society has not been functional for years, but there is an effort to restart it on both sides of the parish.
Psychiatric service needs are large, both pediatric and adult, he said; drug addiction and rehabilitation service continues and may be expanded.
Autopsies are currently sent to Lafayette or Jefferson Parish. The cost is $1,900 for a forensic autopsy vs. $900 for a non-forensic.
Kristine Trapp is the new certified sexual assault examiner, introduced by Melancon. “Prior to 2019 the coroner’s office has never investigated a sexual assault,” he said. “Now we’ve had over 80 cases last year…reported to law enforcement but zero cases reported to us. That’s the big block. We have to get those reported. Three cases were investigated this year, two that weren’t because they weren’t reported to us.”
Renovations to the morgue have been made with help from parish government, he noted. A security system is in the works.
In other business at Wednesday’s meeting of the St. Mary Parish Council:
—Lee Dragna, Consolidated Drainage Dist. 2 in Morgan City president, urged the parish council to develop and cooperative endeavor agreement wherein drainage districts, the levee districts and other governmental agencies, could assist each other in cases of emergency, at actual cost.
Chief Administrative Officer Henry “Bo” LaGrange said there was legislation passed allowing as a constitutional amendment allowing local governments to enter into cooperative endeavor agreements for such needs, with appropriate costs included. The council indicated support for that arrangement.
—LaGrange also reported that progress on work on the Yokely Canal involving rights-of-way will proceed soon.
—Councilman Craig Mathews reported that one of two wells in the Glencoe area is no longer usable, and the water district is operating on a single source. He said another well needs to be drilled. LaGrange said the administration is seeking a grant for that purpose, at a cost of about $200,000-300,000.