Concerns rise after morgue in downtown Indy becomes over-capacity

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Marion County Coroner's Office confirmed they are out of space at the morgue downtown and do not have enough forensic pathologists to handle the cases coming in.

Deputy Chief Coroner Alfarena Ballew said they do run out of room at the downtown morgue often, but it has happened more times in the past year. So, they are forced to take the victims' bodies to a storage space at Indiana University.

Unfortunately, the lack of space is not the only issue the coroner's office is facing right now.

"What happens is, we're at capacity with the number of cases that we get, but we only have a limited number of pathologists who can perform those autopsies," Ballew explained. "We typically have to carry cases over for the next day, and sometimes it takes us about four days to get completely caught up with performing autopsies and doing examinations."

Ballew said the goal is for families to receive information from the exams and autopsies along with their loved ones' bodies within 24 hours. To do that, they would need five forensic pathologists. They currently have two.

"When we're at capacity and working the large number of cases that we have, I mean, you're talking about burn outs, you're talking about the inability to complete as many autopsies as we can in order to move the cases along for the decedents to be released to families," Ballew noted.

Ballew told CBS4 the office is going to compare their agency to other similar sized agencies with the same numbers and caseload, then make a request to the city for additional money. District 23 Councilor Paul Annee said that is something he would consider, particularly as part of the public safety committee. He believes this problem underscores the need for more solutions.

"Come together and take a look at how we can do things, and take a look at additional funding and additional appropriations," Annee said. "I hope that we're more focused on if we do go and give more money and more additional appropriations, that we would be doing it to try to save lives and not focus so much on after it gets to the morgue." Annee said.

District 25 City-County Councilor Brian Mowery was surprised by the news of the full morgue. He shared a concerning comparison.

"We're talking about something that the animal care services has seen many years now," Mowery said. "Let that sink in. We're talking about human lives, not the animal care services. We are talking about human lives that we're experiencing the exact same issue now where we are running out of space."

Both councilors co-sponsored the proposal for a public safety commission, which was voted down this month. They continue urging community conversations which will formulate solutions.

"In terms of crime and violence, in terms of non-fatal shootings, in terms of a extremely deadly start to 2020, and when you talk about the morgue is now overflowing, that should shock the conscience of the city of Indianapolis," Annee said.

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