New study helps coroner's office prevent suicides in Humboldt County

October 22, 2019

Since January 2019, the Humboldt County Coroner's Office has used a new consolidated risk assessment profile to prevent future suicides in Humboldt County, according to county officials.

The risk assessment profile checklist is based on research by Kimberly Repp, the chief epidemiologist for Washington County, Ore., who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology. Her checklist begins with questions about age, gender and cause of death, then expands to an expansive list of questions about subjects including evidence of addiction, financial or job problems and relationship stress.

Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services reviewed five years of reports to learn baseline data and confirm what was missing from traditional suicide reports.

DHHS senior program manager Dana Murguia first heard about Repp and her methods when both women attended a conference. In December 2018, Repp was invited to Humboldt where she performed two suicide fatality review training sessions to DHHS staff and community partners.

The reviews are to investigate suicides and brainstorm how to improve the system, legislation, policy, training and public education based on facts to prevent future suicide-related deaths in Humboldt County.

Though the program is still young, Murguia said they are busy collecting and reviewing data.

“As we collect more data, we’ll get more insight on specific places where we can intervene and implement actual prevention," said Murguia. "Our objective is to be able to make recommendations for changes that will make an impact.”

State Representative Jared Huffman says Repp's methods are a step in the right direction.

“Suicide is a particularly difficult problem in the rural parts of my congressional district,” Huffman said. “My staff and I have met with the public health officials and coroners who are on the front lines of this issue, and it’s good to see them taking this important step toward helping our Humboldt County communities move toward zero suicide.”

Murguia urges Humboldt County residents to ask questions those who might be considering suicide. Sometimes that can be enough to help that person realize that someone cares about them and to seek out suicide-prevention services.

By:  Brian Beneventi
Source: KRCR TV