Coroner's Office: (3300B)

Program Outcome Statement

To serve the residents of San Mateo County by providing prompt independent investigations to determine the cause and manner of death under the Coroner's jurisdiction. Provide high quality service in a courteous manner balancing the needs of those we serve with the Coroner's legal requirement.

Program Services

  • Investigations
  • Forensics
  • Save A Life

Overview

The Coroner's Office responds to calls for service, investigates and determines the circumstances and manner of all violent, sudden, or unnatural deaths in San Mateo County. The Coroner's Office must establish whether or not a death was due to natural or unnatural causes. The Office receives and investigates approximately 2,200 death reports annually. Typically, approximately 25% of those reports require further inquiry. With the cooperation of law enforcement agencies, medical personnel, funeral homes, and families, Deputy Coroners conduct thorough investigations into a death. The Deputy Coroners also provide families with information regarding funeral arrangements, obtaining death certificates, and recovering personal property. The Coroner's Office contracts for forensic pathologists, body removal and tissue analysis services.

Percent of Cases Closed Within 45 Days Exceeds National Standard of Closing Within 90 Days

Percent of Survey Respondents Rating Services as Good or Better Nearly Meets Target


Cost per Investigation Gradually Increasing

Story Behind Performance FY 2017-18 Update

Percent of Cases Closed within 45 Days Exceeds National Standard
Although the national standard of closing Coroner cases is within 90 days, the San Mateo County Coroner's Office strives to close cases within 45 days of referral. Due to the sensitivity of Coroner cases, timely closure is important to family members and next of kin for handling affairs following the death of a loved one.
In previous years, the Coroner's Office exceeded the target of 90% case closure within 45 days of referral. In FY 2014-2015, the Coroner's Office adopted new case management processes that affected the percentage of cases being closed within 45 days of referral. As a result of the new case management processes,Deputy Coroners' increasing responsibilities increased the time spent to close cases. Since FY 2014-2015, Deputy Coroners' responsibilities continue to increase.
The Coroner's Office closed 80% of cases within 45 days in FY 2017-18, a lower percentage than in FY 2016-17. The Coroner's Office continues to perform within the national standard of closing at least 90% of Coroner cases within 90 days.
Percent of Survey Respondents Rating Services as Good or Better Nearly Meets Target
Customers to the Coroner's Office may include families, law enforcement, medical personnel and funeral homes. The Coroner's Office has historically only received an average of ten surveys per year. In 2016, the Coroner's Office adopted new efforts to increase the number of responses; however, the Coroner's Office continues to receive less than 25 surveys annually. The Coroner's Office regularly receives hand-written letters commenting on service by the Coroner's Office, especially from families of decedents. The Coroner's Office adopted new, personalized measures to increase the number of surveys received, likely to be portrayed in FY 2018-19. For FY 2017-18, The Coroner's Office nearly met the goal of 90% survey respondents rating services as good or better by receiving 88%.
Cost per Investigation Gradually Increasing
The cost per investigation is an efficiency measure for the Coroner's Office. The Coroner's Office increased in cost per investigation from FY 2016-17 of $1,400 per investigation to FY 2017-18 of $1,560 per investigation. The Coroner's Office continued a pilot program that began in June 2016 to complete scene investigations on residential elder deaths reported by law enforcement. As a result, the Coroner's Office directed more investigative resources to evaluate elder deaths. Additionally, the Coroner's Office increased contracts for Forensic Pathology services.

Future Priorities

1) Independently seeking accurate cause and manner of death for all decedents falling under the jurisdiction of the Coroner's Office.
2) Maintaining excellence through specialized continuing education and employing board certified personnel.
3) Compassionately communicating with decedents' loved ones through the entire case investigation.
4) Collaborating with and educating the community and stakeholders regarding the role and function of the Coroner's Office.
5) Preventing untimely death through referrals of death reports to partner agencies and outreach to the community.
Author: Emily Tauscher, Assistant Coroner     Contact Email: ETauscher@smcgov.org     Last Updated: July 31, 2018