WWL>Topics>>3-18 1:10pm Open Mind : New Orleans Coroner

3-18 1:10pm Open Mind : New Orleans Coroner

Mar 18, 2014|

Angela talks to newly elected Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse about what he plans to change and focus on as coroner.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Well and you are gray days would be over and it is a glorious sun shining one today. And I hope you stay with us for the three hours -- I think we have three very interesting topics. The first one is we're gonna really get to know our new coroner. And then are going to be talking to. Michael hacked the new president of -- you know and also a member of the business council were -- talking about. The great great need for skilled labor. And I'm just reminded over the years -- We often had the need for great jobs now we've got -- jobs coming we're looking for the people to fill them interesting our hand. And then we have a third hour and unblinking completely on what it is but I know you gonna stay with -- sell. I am very excited about this because during the campaign we hand the the corner candidates on. And I had not meant to of them so I got to -- to movement -- it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about the coroner's office. For the first time in thirty years in New Orleans we'll have a new corner. Doctor Jeffrey Rouse will soon take office. But not before a very tough campaign and a very close runoff election on Saturday. A lot learned by this experience doctor but first time political candidate. He is our guest for the next hour here to tell us about those lessons learned. And about his plans for the coroner's office doctor Jeffrey Rouse congratulations. This is big. Thank you very much for having cook but this is very -- okay. That we have to say to people who were unaware that you worked have been working with the coroner's office for number fears over ten years. Yes I have among board certified forensic psychiatrist and I have been working in the mental health division of the corners office for twelve years. Leading that division since Hurricane Katrina okay. So. Doctor -- -- decides to step down. You say on them and make a run for it. Yes I think the appropriate analogy here is that I jumped out of the plane without a parachute. And -- I essentially depended on the goodwill of family and friends and -- hope that. Because of my conviction that I was the right guy. That a parachute would somehow get placed upon my back and we would figure it out now before we hit the ground and I'm very very pleased to say. That that parachute got to look back we opened it and then I've -- to sailing right now. You said something before we went on that he did not have any campaign manager until two weeks. Yes before the the this last Saturday election no man and -- -- Until two weeks before the primary election okay this as I said. And I am obviously a political office had I known. How truly. In grossing and how truly intricate the process of running for office was. I would have had my docs in a row in first among those would have been to have a campaign manager to teach me reduce -- but along the way I did pick up a wonderful campaign manager misstep for Chapman. Who has shepherded me through the last days of the primary. And then through every day of the runoff election so hats off to her so in in essence you were thinking pure -- -- I've sort of pay dues within the in this department and corner and I I wanna make the changes that need to be made until all just go to all these debates and the so this is out work -- that that's all you do and in May be put a thousand or two dollars users of your own money and you just you're you're just the right guy and it all works out all right if that's so talk to me about the reality. It's more than a couple thousand dollars yes -- I I haven't looked to my final total but I do believe we ended up raising certainly over a 100000 dollars. To do all of the intricate and messaging that is necessary. On especially 11 as a first time candidates. And nobody outside of the medical and possibly legal and criminal justice community really knew me. Certainly not a household name on a citywide but you've got to find a way if you're going to win the office you've got to find a way to get your name out there and become. A citywide. Name rapidly. And that requires money and so of to a to that -- we use the mailing strategy we used to read your strategy and towards the end we were blessed. Two have enough money to use -- television strategy is well to introduce the public to me. And two. Into my vision for what I believe the corners office should be. You. You get into a runoff. With the man who in fact test political experience and -- McKenna yes and is more of a veteran. And he he really had very high numbers in that primary yes. When mode when that number came out did you go on my gosh. This is really going to be tough. Yes and knows the sort of equivocal answer that question. Yes it was very tough because he nearly took it in the first. But no because my entire strategy was based upon forcing a runoff election so that I would have more time. To introduce myself. To the public and that the public could see. Who I was and my vision for the corners office there was no earthly way. That I could have expected to go from a note from an unknown. To a Victor in the course of four weeks essentially after Christmas and before the before the runoff from before the primary election. That would not have been humanly possible so my strategy the entire time was to force the run off. And then use that momentum capitalize on the momentum. And praise for money. Pray for political endorsements and pray for. Some lucky breaks and all three of those came in. Near parachute landed on your practice -- but it looked so. You aren't sitting there that night and it is close very close. So are you doing your co hearts are. Just waiting for every vote to -- yes we -- on that in fact we were upstairs above our campaign party. And the party was going on downstairs. And we sustained upstairs until we were absolutely sure. That's. This was going to be a reality. And so we kept getting texts and phone calls saying where are you are you skipping your own party win or lose -- need to come downstairs and thank you supporters. But don't we wanted to have an idea of you know kind of rumor walking into so -- get my head right before things and and and addressed the my supporters in the public. What was the vote different it's my understanding that to the vote which has not yet been certified it was 1004. Vote difference between myself my apartment. 1004. Yes. One -- and lowers -- razors and razor thin now somebody tells me you were out with your white coat. On street corners. But yes. This was that this was a combination. Of many things I mean I've always been in in my clinical practice I have always advocated in my patients. You don't just rely on one thing to get better to make -- -- situation better you do everything. You know for example you know you don't necessarily if you've got a target and you wanna hit it. Sometimes it's best issued a shotgun and it so that you have multiple -- going towards rather than just one bowl and so I did the shotgun approach to this election. I did a modern election in terms of the via FaceBook and email and although it's sort of in and get out the vote effort and voter lists and all that. But I also tried to do a an old school. Door knocking. People in the neighborhoods. And high visibility of of the candidates on street corners. We tried to use both modern and time tested approaches to politics because I knew that I had to pull out. All of the stops if I was to make this make history reality and it worked. And your wonderful campaign manager she said do you you know doctrine we needed to acts did you ever go. -- To I have to do it of course of course have been running for office is an exercise. In doing things that are. Outside of your everyday activity outside of your comfort level and the reality is. All of us we live our lives and we have these certain niches we occupied island and a certain part of town and you may live in a different part of town. You know we have our friends we live in. Sort of might crew cities within a very large of a large city. And it was absolutely necessary that I be -- out of my comfort zone. To be everywhere and to go to places that I had never been in order to introduce myself to the city as large. And large and that was at times uncomfortable but it's what we expect from our public servants that they will get out there. And see not just the people that they already know not just the people they know for them. And that they won't get out into the entire city and introduce themselves. One very very good piece of advice I got in the beginning of this was you have to go. Until they saying that you have to go into the areas and go to places where. You know they may not before but you have to just keep pushing the boundaries and that's IUE get a victory. 1004. Votes he didn't. Stay with us we're gonna continue our conversation with doctor Jeffrey Rouse the new corner of New Orleans I'm Angela under the that you will. We have a new corner in New Orleans is name is doctor Jeffrey Rouse and he's been telling us about and it is fascinating. If you've ever. Thought to yourself gee you know want -- reeling and then throw my hat in the ring and I'm going to run for some office he had absolutely no experience. This man has to live that moment -- the -- so weekend if you wanna call he'd love to talk to you about it but overall I mean clearly you won 1004000. You you won but what a life experience. Yes I mean it. I won't say that it has concluded the one chapter of that has concluded as of -- Saturday night and my brain is still number one recuperating from the experience into. Wrapping itself around not only the outcome but also the the enormity of the task that was just completed. And -- this is not a thing that is done by the candidate this is the thing that is done by. A ground swell around candidates and I and I will be eternally. Grateful. To my wife to my children to my immediate found in my extended telling my friends my colleagues. And to the new persons who have believed in being believed in my vision and came aboard. Both in the primary and in the general. And that last week or so is that just 24/7. Getting the word out shaking hands. Are -- they were you giving any talks at that point. -- I would say about two days prior to the election I pulled back a little bit. I did do some street corner waving and some some events but I knew that I had to reserve some physical and mental energy for Election Day. And what was very fortunate about the race was and I had a very good campaign manager who is able to deploy a very strong. Ground game or they get out the vote effort on the Wednesday. We had family driving in from Baton Rouge we had family on street corners and so I had to. Sort of shepherd my resources to save at all for the big day because. As the strategists were saying both -- and Clinton do dose and others were saying. That who wins in a runoff election is all about turnout who can you convince to. Leave their home go to the place and press the button and they were some very. Significant headwinds ahead of us on that day. It wasn't Saint Patrick's Day but it was the day at the Casilla Patrick's day parades were -- And that was a seat that was a significant factor in voter turnout. Not the least of which the parade literally went past a polling place and so persons would have to choose not only to get up and go vote. But they would have to choose to navigate appropriated and then cross that parade in order go vote. So there were some there were definite headwinds but we got through it through a just a massive effort of the family friends and -- workers on the camera. And now you are in. First week of may will be the coroner yes that's really the reality yes and even though you've got twelve years experience in the office and it is it is going to be much much bigger yes. And so but Europe they're confident. And in much you wanna do. Very confident I love what I do for. What I do for a living is as a forensic psychiatrist. My job is to relate medical information. Into the legal system. I love it I'm very blessed to have this job. And ma am the son of a lawyer. And I've been very intrigued by the criminal justice system I've worked for various parts of the criminal justice system as a psychiatrist for a number of years. And so I see this as a extension of what I've already been doing. Now granted it is an expansion. Of what I've been doing is doing it not only for. Other rules such as death investigation and a sexual assault investigation. But also it is a very public public rule. And so I'm -- to the challenge and I am and I thank the voters of new loans for believing that I was up to destroy all you know absolutely you. What did you learn. Especially during the debates about yourself from. I learned that. It is very important to just. Stick to. What you believe. And what you are fusion news for the office. It that is easy tickets sidelined with. I'm responding to this attack -- that attack and I'm not that. I'm I -- I'm very good to explain in my vision I was not on the debate team in high school. I was and I do not have a lot of political experience and so. And I learned very quickly to just focus on communicating who I was and my vision for the office and let the chips falls and I think that they're probably some people in the community that question why we even elect a corner on one of them mark yes. Yes this is a job. The vets some states and many states around the country have determined must be to force from the political process and so. You have what are called medical examiners in various states around the country who are. Appointed in some cases they are part of the state Health Department. And they serve not just an individual parish or county but they serve a region. So it's somewhat more insulated from in the -- -- politics. But the fact of the matter is it is enshrined in the Louisiana constitution. It is it is the way it is -- and so you can either sit on the sidelines and wish that it were different where you can get in the mix and you know try to turn to -- the best of but I do believe in my heart that's at a publicly in numbers of times that should not be a position that is. Subjects to fund raising subject to. You know. The sort of -- beauty pageant aspect that campaigns can become. Right. You know it that's very thoughtful and what you're saying again time and others who think the same way not just about the corners on it's -- about other offices that we had. Right. Politics right after that but -- George races effort and about and perhaps the Indians susser. And and I do not mean and any stretch of the imagination to. Denigrate. The democratic process there will always be politics if you're appointing someone or if you're electing someone but -- I think the entire the entire populous can agree that this is a very strange week for a doctor to get. -- this is great I want everyone to stay with this we're gonna continue. Our top with a new corner now let's go to the newsroom and we are back talking to the new corner of New Orleans doctor Jeffrey Rouse. About his incredible experience running for office for the first time and again I think you can try to put yourself in -- -- and in your -- well meaning and you love what you do. As you have been doing for twelve years of the coroner's office. And this was an opportunity first time in over thirty years went -- coming yard decide to step down. Let me do it then it hits. Yes I got to do actually yes. Yes and I am. Excited about that challenge I really really am the the corners office. As I said before is a place that people come. When it's the worst day of their lives. Maybe it's because someone has died or because they are finally taking a step. To commit a person that they love. To have the police come and put them in the custody in order to force them to come into treatment that's not an easy decision and it's certainly not an easy situation. By any stretch of the imagination. If there's a corners case of death and domestic government so I take. My my vision on how to transform that office. Very very seriously because. If you had to pick a place in this city if you had to pick one place where there is the most human suffering. I think the corners office would certainly be in the running for. And in doing the original show with the candidates. I did not realize it was the coroner's office that did the -- I know now it's it's nurses who do this yes and you know it was in such bad condition it was I thought about that even that the next day. -- woman has been traumatized to that point and then have to go to that awful place. Yes it is it is a true blessing. That we have the the same nurses yes sexual assault nurse examiners. To examine how persons who have been. Allegedly sexually abused collect the evidence and submit that into the criminal justice system because in the past you're absolutely correct. Persons would have to undergoes that exam at the morgue. At the corners office and that is of course does you don't need a doctorate to test to see that that's completely degrading. The going back to the psychiatric and of the coroner's responsibility. Is which is what you have been doing for the last twelve years is. Is the commitment process. Yes the I've been responsible for the the commitments at the corner office for as as one of the psychiatrist for over twelve years I've been supervising that the mission since Hurricane Katrina. If you're asking what the process and what is the process. If a family member of group person who runs a group -- really -- concerned citizen has credible information. The fellow person. In New Orleans parish is suicidal. Is homicidal. About to hurt others or so impaired. By their mental illness or substance abuse that they are at risk for physical harm. Then. If the person's unwilling. -- on able to seek treatment themselves. Then it. The corners office has the opportunity. To basically. Effect -- -- voluntary. Commitment. Which is legal terms for basically where that we're the ones that can start the process whereby the police pick that person up not. For criminal is not to take them to jail. But to get them into the medical system. Where there will be brought into an emergency room. If value weighted physically in many times on given a drug test or you know other blood test to see if there's a medic if -- if there's a more quote medical reason. That's causing that -- behavior. And then. That emergency room can have a psychiatrist evaluate the person and if necessary. Have them brought in to a psychiatric and so. Then the coroner's office has 72 hours within which to respond and do an independent evaluation. Of that person. Independent in the sense of we don't work at that hospital we don't get paid differently either -- to the according to what decision we make. But we have to come in and interview the person look at the medical records and determine if the if the person meets the legal criteria. For commitment because as you can imagine. I mean essentially I have the power to take anyone out of society put them in an emergency room and possibly even a psychiatric unit. -- and sometimes. You don't know all the facts. Some but persons are legend and to use so he -- incredible he start the process you get the men but it. If that's and that's the deprivation of that person's rights. That'd be good work that -- they've been taken away against the will. It's -- her -- and so there has to be a sort of a legal criteria to do that and where the ones that are -- checks and balances absolutely. That's so we do if you did determine that person does need to be. Put into the psychiatric ward and it's for how long. Any doctor can commit someone to the hospital for a period of 72 hours. That -- that is basically enough time for the coroner's office -- it's designee. To come in and do the independent evaluation to determine if they need to stay for at that point basically up to two more weeks. Which takes care of the lion's share of time necessary. One person's or even an idea that -- -- of psychosis and Armenia are currently. Impaired. What can only do I mean on this is not on the subject of being corner -- as a psychiatrist. What can only do in this community for. The better handling of of people really suffering from mental illness. I think the M yeah. I think this discussion revolves a lot around psychiatric beds we talk about not having as many beds in New Orleans. As we had before Katrina. You look at than you look at the numbers and that's true although it is getting better and growing was certainly not enough of crisis we were in 20062007. Although we're not there yet but I would. I've done a lot of what we call community -- psychiatry meaning. I've worked in settings in which we literally. Would go to people's homes make sure they have the medication make sure they were stable and make sure that they could stay in the community. And I do believe that that is perhaps the missing link in the mental health care system in the city because. The hospitals just like a delineated -- they're not there to keep you for the rest of life that's not ethical it's no we do as a society anymore. But in and it so eventually. -- -- The most is real serious criminal charges involved that's it's parallel system. Eventually everyone a psychiatric hospital gets. And so. It did it the cruise justices decided to start thinking about what are the appropriate ways that they can be in the community and be stable and lead happy. Productive lives and so what that basically means is. Therapeutic group owns that is something that really hasn't stood up in the city. In the numbers necessary since hurricane Katrina and I've been in a number of conversations. With person's interest -- -- and -- throughout the city because I think that's where. The linchpin is mean there are people in the city but I know from a first name basis they see me and they know exactly who idea why. Because I've committed them. Over a hundred times. -- and that's not the hospital's fault. That is the system that is the system and so you know there are many people like judge Johnson had much upon human services district -- Tebow as a mentally strong health advocate. Who would I believe sit right here and agree with me. And that is the that is that should be the focus of the mental health system is to recreate those dispense. Again that's not something that's directly under the statutory. Responsibility of the corner but that's certainly a part of the bully pulpit and continues. Beautiful we'll be right back I'm Angela under the that he will. And our new coroner doctor Jeffrey Rouse is here he'll be taking office the first week of men and we have a caller crank crank. A question. I noticed that there's approximately nine credited forensic psychiatry -- -- and -- it's great. Source -- of the -- -- culture the very specific. Specialty. And forensic trying to with the investigation of crimes. -- which you recorder I know you used there's special city. Or out and you specialty during the quarter result that you another level. And do forensic psychiatrist Jim Crow crow -- or what exactly that the forensic psychiatrist or. That question they have forensic psychiatrist is a professional. Who evaluates persons. For purposes of legal questions and -- can either mean. If there's a civil suit and someone is alleging that they have put tremendous stress disorder after an accident. And up but more often at least in my experience it is it revolves around questions and regarding the criminal justice system so for example. If a boy year doesn't believe that his client is understanding how the court case against them is going. That got that lawyer may have a psychiatrist come and evaluate that person to see if they are competent to stand trial. So that's one of the evaluations we -- Another valuation we do is when there's a claim. That there is a person who is. Was insane. At the time they committed a crime. And I used the word claim because many times. That is true many times that is false claim. And so we rely on our expertise and training and -- And in general knowledge about how both medical and the legal systems work. In order to give our best opinion about such questions and then also involves of course that the use of psychiatry correctional settings. And the treatment of those who have been. Accused Europe convicted of crimes. And they find themselves -- in the forensic system or in the jail systems that's the sense of the summary of what a forensic psychiatrist does. How that applies to the role of coroner. I believe is twofold number one. I've got a lot of experience in working in the criminal justice system works the DA -- -- -- police department of public defender of the municipal court criminal court. And I'm very comfortable going on the witness stand. And testifying. To my expert opinion about psychiatric matters and on through that I have the opportunity to do that as the corner as well with regard to the other things Christmas. But but also it breeds in in one the sort of it's the healthy skepticism. Is people claim things all the time and many times a -- -- any good forensic psychiatrist will take all the available information they can get in ordered answer. A particular legal question. So on the occasions that I've had -- opportunity to participate in some of the death investigations. They had asked me to come in on specific questions of regarding and to dispersant actually commit suicide. And so. I was able to do what's called psychological autopsy speak to family look at records look at text messages look at. Medical psychiatric record to the person actually -- surveillance tapes of how the person acted. Prior to the alleged suicide. And you know come up with my best opinion about whether or not it was a suicide not in the but the point is. A forensic psychiatrist. Is is essentially trained. In. Some of the techniques of investigation. And has drilled into our heads from the very beginning that any investigation has to look at. All available resources and data and not just take a person's word for. Very very good thank you credit for calling. You also will be handling autopsy are you planning staff to do. Autopsy is are performed. By board certified forensic pathologists but those are doctors who have undergone. Training and pathologist believed the three that are most I think it's a four year residency. And then they do an additional year of training in forensic pathology learning all the intricacies. Of you know stab wounds and knife wounds and you know how bullets -- -- their trajectory through my body just someone like that yes the cut but they don't. They will actually perform the autopsy -- if you look at it look around our region. The corners of saint Tammany Jefferson clock -- and Saint Bernard. None of them -- forensic pathologists. And soon to -- New Orleans not a forensic pathologist myself but I've worked very closely with the forensic pathologists I've seen a number of autopsy is I was in the autopsy suite. Monday and and so. It is their job to perform the autopsy and to summarize their findings. And when I'm corner we will have in the an additional ability to take objective photographic evidence in this autopsy is so won't just be one doctor's word. But that it behooves me to put that information together with all the other sources of information. The eyewitness testimony surveillance tapes. Information that the police department can share to come up with the AM best. Medical. Diagnosis of how a person died and I'm not on and that the city of New Orleans it's given me this opportunity to prove that I'm the man qualified to do stay with us we'll be right. Packed with them are new coroner doctor Jeffrey Rouse and I just have to say in our final moment he sent out a thank you to everybody in the end I wanna read this I think. All of you for entrusting me to serve canoneers sacred position. To lead an office that cares for the infirm the abused and those who moved on. It is a sacred honor to deal with life and death and I take that privilege and your trust quite seriously and obviously the voters -- the same view. Good luck to you in the coming years and we will be periodically checking in on new. Saying how things go especially if you open a new office hopefully early next year yes ma'am thank you for government. Now this is not a sort of a new day. And and good for you and it's and it's exciting to. We will stay tuned up please do because we're going to be talking in the next hour. About workforce. The need for great skilled workforce stay with us now let's go to the news --