Dr. Havlik’s Association with the Coroner’s Office
Dates associated with the Mesa County Coroner’s Office
- Mesa County Coroner (elected) 2007-2018 (term-limited from office in Jan. 2019)
- Mesa County Chief Deputy Coroner 2001-2006
Highlights, Milestones and Improvements While the Mesa County Coroner
The Mesa County Coroner’s Office is responsible for the investigation of sudden, unexpected deaths that occur within Mesa County. Not all deaths in the county fall under the jurisdiction of the Coroner’s Office but some examples of those deaths that are investigated include anyone that dies from a violent means, death as a result of the use of a drug or toxin, death due to complication of a medical procedure, unexpected death at home or death after being hospitalized for less than 24 hours. The Mesa County Coroner is the decision-maker in determining if an autopsy needs to be performed and also determining the cause and manner of death. There are several other responsibilities of the Mesa County Coroner including notifying the next of kin about the death and also determining the disposition of the body after the examination is complete.
Dean Havlik, MD served as the elected Mesa County Coroner for 12 years before he was term-limited from at the beginning of 2019. There were numerous changes and improvements to the office structure and overall quality of work when he became the elected Coroner. Some of these included the following:
- An electronic system for reports, which included an organized electronic filing of documents and case information, was devised shortly after taking office in 2007. This electronic system greatly enhanced efficiency within the office.
- Annual reports detailing the deaths in Mesa County were begun the first year Dr. Havlik took office and continued until he was term limited from office. These reports provided valuable data for statistical analyses and research.
- A special drug-related deaths report for Mesa County was also devised by the office with the start of the “opioid epidemic” that challenged forensic offices throughout the country beginning in 2017. These drug-related death reports detailed the impact the “opioid epidemic” was having on Mesa County.
- There was a requirement that the full-time investigators be certified through the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators.
- The quality of the investigations improved with policies and procedures devised.
- For the first time the Mesa County Coroner’s Office had a stable system with Standard Operating Guidelines that were published and continuously updated and revised.
- Report turnaround time for the investigator’s reports were improved with a requirement that these reports be completed within 24 hours or before an autopsy was performed.
- Improvement in the quality of the autopsy reports and their turnaround time was also a priority for Dr. Havlik and his staff. The autopsy report turnaround time became less than 30 days (often a lot sooner) for essentially all cases unless there were specialized studies being performed.
- During Dr. Havlik’s tenure between the years 2007 to the beginning of 2016, the autopsy facility was based out of the Community Hospital building on 12th street and Orchard Avenue in Grand Junction. The facility was old, but it served the office well for many years. However, one of the most exciting happenings with the Mesa County Coroner’s Office while Dr. Havlik was Coroner was the building of a new Community Hospital on 23 ½ and G Road in Grand Junction. Dr. Havlik was instrumental in coordinating, planning and designing the new autopsy suite based inside the hospital. The suite was developed in a way to comply with all safety and quality standards. In March 2016, the new hospital and new autopsy suite opened. The new autopsy suite provided a state-of-the-art facility for the Mesa Count Coroner’s Office and Dr. Havlik and became a facility other Coroner’s and forensic pathology offices were envious of. Not only was the Mesa County Coroner’s Office housed in an outstanding facility for the performance of autopsies but Dr. Havlik and his staff had access to full-service radiology services (including CT and MRI scan capabilities), complete laboratory services, appropriate safety protocols and the collegial atmosphere of interacting with other physicians and their staff.
- The autopsy suite falls under the overall laboratory accreditation through the College of American Pathologists which has stringent requirements for both hospital and forensic autopsies to ensure standards of care.
- One of the biggest accomplishments of Dr. Havlik while he was the elected Mesa County Coroner was his office becoming accredited through the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) in 2017. NAME accreditation is important for forensic offices to achieve. NAME ensures offices are following all quality and safety procedures. Becoming NAME accredited is a rigorous process with numerous requirements. Only approximately 90 offices are accredited through NAME. Dr. Havlik was proud to achieve this accreditation and his office received high marks during the accreditation inspection process.
- Dr. Havlik and the Mesa County Coroner’s Office became not only recognized locally and statewide as a high-quality office but was also highly respected nationally.
- In the beginning of 2019, when Dr. Havlik was term-limited from being Coroner with Mesa County, the Mesa County Coroner’s Office lost its NAME accreditation since they stopped using the services of Dr. Havlik and his group and the hospital facility. However, Dr. Havlik continues his forensic work for other counties and agencies and has retained NAME accreditation for the autopsy suite at Community Hospital and for his pathology group (The Pathology Group, PC).
- There were also numerous other achievements by the Mesa County Coroner’s office during Dr. Havlik’s tenure as the Mesa County Coroner! Dr. Havlik is proud of his staff and his office for what they accomplished during those 12 years while he was in office.