Franklin County coroner says 2020 was filled with ‘grief’

Dr. Anahi Ortiz tweeted recently about the violence, officer-involved shootings and addiction deaths, calling for action and a change in city leadership.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dr. Anahi Ortiz says 2020 hit the Franklin County Coroner’s Office hard. People were called in to talk to staffers about the challenges. Many took time off to unplug and recharge. Dr. Ortiz has plans to do that herself this month.

She pointed to the deadly shootings of Casey Goodson Jr. and Andre’ Hill at the hands of local law enforcement officers. She also talked about the year’s deadly record for homicides and overdoses.

And all of this has been on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You really can’t do much about the pandemic, and we know the pandemic has exacerbated everything I just mentioned,” she said. “However, we were having issues before that. Unless we start working on some of these issues, even when the pandemic is over, we’re still going to see some problems here.”

On Saturday, Dr. Ortiz tweeted about seven deadly overnight overdoses and the two little girls, Ava and Alyse Williams, Columbus police say were killed by their father who then died by suicide.

She wrote, “When will our city and county recognize people need help now, not in 6 months, not in a year.”

And this isn’t the first time in recent months Dr. Ortiz has shared her thoughts on social media.

Back on Christmas Eve, she tweeted about a “somber and disturbing” December, saying “black and brown people in Columbus are living in fear.”

She also said it was time to demand a change in city leadership.

“I just feel like other folks that, if you do the same things, you’re going to get the same results,” Dr. Ortiz said. “If you have the same people doing the same things, you’re going to get the same results. Perhaps it’s just a wake-up call to leadership to say, hey, you know, we’re doing the same things, maybe we need to do something different.”

When asked about that change in leadership, Dr. Ortiz declined to name names. But she added that other leaders in the community have said they are “disgusted” at the current state of our community and its leadership.

“The community’s tired, just with the protests, I mean, you saw even some of the folks that were interviewed by the media, the frustration, the anger, the fear,” she said. “It’s unsettling. People are not happy at the violence, at what’s going on in the city.”

As for what should be done, Dr. Ortiz says it must start with a plan that leads to action.

“There should be a short-term plan and then that long-term plan,” she said. “So I’m seeing a lot of long-term plans. What’s the short-term plan, because, in the meantime, people are dying.”

She suggested tapping into local resources rather than waiting for budget money to hire outside consultants.

“We have experts in violence right here,” she said. “We have experts who have done research on violence, who have written papers. This is what they do at OSU, at some of the universities here in the county and surrounding. Why can’t we talk to folks who have done the work, folks from the community, bring them together, in terms of addiction and harm reduction, people with lived experience, to come in and talk about it and throw in some ideas.”

In the meantime, she says it’s important for people in the community to raise their voices, in whatever ways they can.

“If more people would vocalize their discontent, and perhaps leadership will listen, and come together, bring the experts to the table, and develop a short-term plan as well as that long-term plan to address the issues at hand,” she said.

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