Counties seek more state funds for rising coroner and medical examiner costs
Press Release, New York State Association of Counties
By the end of 2018, counties across the state expect to have spent over $121 million on coroner and medical examiner services. This is an increase of 7.7 percent over 2017.
Prior to 2011, county coroners and medical examiners were reimbursed up to 36 percent with state aid from Article 6 funding to local health departments. In 2011, the State Budget shifted reimbursement for medical examiners from the NYS Department of Health to the NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services and the funding was no longer available.
“This is a quintessential state mandate,” said Stephen Acquario, executive director of the NYS Association of Counties. “Counties across the state are responsible for administering a coroner or medical examiner program. These costs used to be eligible for partial state reimbursement, but that funding has since gone away, leaving counties to make up the difference. Autopsy services are triggered when a death is unattended, the result of a car accident, suspected overdose, or suicide. While the state and counties continue to battle the opioid epidemic, costs such as autopsy and toxicology services as well as cold body storage have been on the rise. A shortage of service providers and forensic pathologists has exacerbated the problem.”
Based on these factors, NYSAC is urging the Governor and state leaders to include a 50 percent state funding match for autopsy services as part of the 2019-2020 state budget.
While autopsy costs are a fraction of the net total spent by counties on coroner and medical examiner services, state assistance will go a long way toward easing this fiscal burden on counties.
“The opioid epidemic continues to plague our communities,” Acquario said. “Every level of government needs to work together on this crisis, on all fronts – from first responders to last responders.”