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Chris DeBolt

Washington County Administrator Chris DeBolt talks with the county finance committee about laptops for coroners on Thursday. 

FORT EDWARD — Washington County Coroners will be getting laptops equipped with special software that will allow them to input more detailed data on opioid-related deaths, County Administrator Chris DeBolt said during a Board of Supervisors Finance Committee meeting on Thursday.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said DeBolt in a Friday interview about the State Department of Health grant that funded the laptops. “Bob Lemieux did all the work for the grant when the notice for applications was posted.”

According to DeBolt, the laptops and software will allow the county’s four coroners to report the county’s opioid-related deaths into a central database.

“They are trying to get the reporting standardized,” DeBolt said. “We will be getting four laptops within the next couple of months … it should make their jobs easier.”

Currently, the number of state opioid-related deaths has tripled in the past few years, now surpassing 3,000. And in Washington County, state data reports that county opioid-related deaths are worsening, particularly among the 45-to-64 age group, although still below state averages. According to a 2018 state report, there were 6.5 general opioid-related deaths in that age group in Washington County.

This detailed breakdown of information is available through the DOH’s opioid-related injury and death data site that tracks incidents by state, region and county.

Nonethless, not all counties, including Washington, have comparable data available in certain breakdown areas, as noted on the state site.

During the Finance Committee meeting, DeBolt explained to supervisors that the new system for coroners will allow them to better track the data in detail while meeting a state reporting standard.

County Coroner Robert Lemieux, who applied for the DOH laptop grant, said there is a much more detailed death investigations sheet.

“We will be able to complete more thorough death investigation reports,” said Lemieux. “It’s a great resource.”

It was a bit by chance that Lemieux found out about the opportunity.

“I was at a Coroners’ Association conference last fall when someone from the state talked about the grant,” he said, adding that he’s always up for applying for grant funds. “I filled it out on behalf of the other coroners in the county. I asked for everything, laptops, training, iPads, software. I thought I’d go for the best.”

And it seems Lemieux is getting most of what he asked for, including training and three years of free access to the software.

“There is a software package coming on the laptops. The software is free for three years,” said DeBolt. “As of now, the software will be $2,400 a year for the licensing (all four combined) after the three years it comes free.”

During the Finance Committee meeting, Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff asked if the coroners would now have to carry two laptops to do their work.

But according to DeBolt, they will be able to do all their reporting from this one laptop.

“It’s for all their cases,” he said. “But the grant is specifically to try and gather more information about opioid-related deaths.”

Currently, the county is not providing laptops for the coroners, who are elected, said DeBolt.

“A few of the coroners who use laptops and tablets to report information, use their personal laptop,” he said.

DOH distributed the grant funds to the New York State Association of Counties. And NYSAC will purchase the laptops for Washington County, DeBolt said.

At Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting, supervisors voted in favor of accepting the laptops from NYSAC.

At this point they are waiting for distribution from NYSAC.

“We have until Aug. 1 to use the grant funds,” said Lemieux.

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Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli covers Washington County government and other county news and events.

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