Counties Seek State Partnership on Rising Coroner and Medical Examiner Costs
NYSAC Calls on the State to Reimburse Counties For 50% of Autopsy Costs.
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% over 2017.
Prior to 2011, county coroners and medical examiners were reimbursed up to 36% 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 (NYSDOH) to the NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the funding was no longer available.
"This is a quintessential state mandate. 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," said Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the NYS Association of Counties (NYSAC).
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% 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. Every level of government needs to work together on this crisis, on all fronts - from first responders to last responders," said Acquario.