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Kitsap County deaths on an incline for 2007

By CHARLIE BERMANT

Kitsap County writer

2007 was a deadlier year in Kitsap County, with a larger number of overall deaths and twice as many suicides, according to Kitsap County Coroner Greg Sandstrom.

As of Dec. 17, there were 1,816 deaths in the county, compared to 1,645 for all of 2006. Additionally, 44 people committed suicide compared with 21 for 2006.

Kitsap County Health District Director Dr. Scott Lindquist said that suicide is one of the major public health concerns in the county, but these particular numbers are too small to draw an adequate statistical conclusion.

Also too small for statistical analysis is the number of local homicides. In 2006, there were three, while 2007 so far has seen only one: The October stabbing of Bainbridge Island teacher Jeffrey McKinstry, allegedly by his son.

Sandstrom said there was no apparent reason for the increase in suicides, saying “there are a lot of mental health issues” in play.

Like all other county departments, the coroner faced budget cutbacks this year. Sandstrom said the office was able to maintain full staffing (five deputies, one chief deputy and Sandstrom himself) by moving a part-time fiscal analyst position into the Administrative Services Department.

While 2008 could signal a further workload increase, it is expected to be the last full year the coroner’s office will be divided into two locations. Plans for a new facility near the Department of Emergency Management in Bremerton have been approved, with groundbreaking scheduled for this spring. The facility is scheduled to open in 2009.

The 6,500-square-foot $3.3 million building will include a viewing room and will consolidate all coroner activities under one roof, according to Sandstrom.

The coroner investigates all unnatural deaths, such as traffic, suicide or those caused by trauma. Deaths occurring outside of a doctor’s supervision also are investigated.

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