Reinstating office will increase turnaround, assist grieving loved ones
FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 6, 2021) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that, through a bipartisan effort, funding has been appropriated for the Office of the State Medical Examiner (OSME) to reopen its Northern Kentucky office.
"This was truly a bipartisan effort, led by Sen. McDaniel, and demonstrates the imperative need for such essential services in this region," said Gov. Beshear. "As your Governor, I recognize that staffing and funding are ongoing issues for this office, and the bipartisan collaborative success of HB 382 shows that both the Legislature and the Executive Branch are on the same page about tackling such issues."
The Northern Kentucky medical examiner's office has been closed since March 2018.
The General Assembly passed House Bill 382 on Tuesday, March 30. Last week, the Governor signed the bill, which dedicates $1.8 million in one-time funds for fiscal year 2022 and more than $1.5 million in continuation funds.
"So many of our vital services are many times unnoticed, but the loss of the medical examiner's office in Northern Kentucky was becoming a large problem," said Sen. Chris McDaniel of Taylor Mill. "I appreciate working with Gov. Beshear and the state medical examiner's office to return this important service to Northern Kentucky."
Reopening this office will also have positive impacts throughout the commonwealth. Without this office, cases from Northern Kentucky are sent throughout the state, increasing caseloads on existing regional medical examiner's offices that are already over capacity.
"This means that we can process more cases with quicker turnaround, which will help Kentuckians take important next steps in their time of grief and loss," said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. William Ralston. "A shortage of medical examiners in the state contributes to delays in local cases and response times for county coroners to receive completed autopsy reports. County coroners are unable to sign death certificates until autopsy reports are completed, and without signed death certificates, families are often unable to begin taking care of personal matters."
The mission of the OSME is to serve all Kentuckians by providing accurate, thorough and efficient medicolegal investigations of death, thereby ensuring justice and providing solace, comfort and protection to the living. The office also addresses public health impacts by identifying diseases and hazards that potentially could put Kentuckians at risk.
In 2020, the state medical examiner's office completed 2,851 examinations and were involved in well over 5,000 death investigations statewide.
The Northern Kentucky location will provide year-round accessibility and anticipates receiving well over 500 examinations annually. For grieving families in the region, it will reduce the need to transport their deceased loved ones 100 miles or more to the Louisville office for examination and back home before a funeral and burial, saving families time and money. Law enforcement and other investigators will also save associated expenses and resources.