Marion County coroner requests more money due to increase in death investigations

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Marion County Coroner's Office says it is seeing a spike in death investigations and it needs more funding.

The office presented its 2020 budget proposal to the City County Council. During the presentation, Dr. Leeandra Sloan, Elected Coroner, and Alfarena Ballew, Chief Deputy Coroner, said the number of death investigations resulting from drug overdoses has caused a significant increase in expenses for the coroner's office. That is why they are seeking additional appropriations from the council.

"You begin to become overwhelmed," said Ballew. "You begin to become unproductive."

They believe the number of death investigations is increasing because of a higher rate of drug overdoses. Ballew believes more than half of the overdose cases next year will involve fentanyl.

"Fentanyl is being laced in pills people are taking so people who are buying pills off the street we see fentanyl is in the pills," she said.

Ballew said three times this year, two people died in the same place because of a drug overdose which is rare.

Ballew claims they are running out of funds at the end of the year to staff pathologists to perform autopsies. The office anticipates spending more than $350,000 over their budget this year.

"Increased number of investigators that are needed, a need for additional supplies and equipment to conduct these investigations," she explained.

They hope the proposal gets passed because they think the extra money will help them better serve the community.

The city's Office of Finance and Management sent CBS4 the following statement about the funding request:

"When the Coroner’s Office submitted their funding requests at the beginning of the budget process, they wanted to increase staffing levels in order to ensure caseloads would be below 242 cases per deputy coroner per year – deputy coroners perform all investigations/cases for the agency. After many conversations between the Office of Finance and Management and the Coroner’s Office, the 2020 budget, as proposed earlier this month, increases the Coroner’s Office’s budget by $567K above 2019 funding levels. This 19% increase will primarily fund additional staff, with $198K earmarked to hire four new full time employees. The proposed 2020 budget funds a total of 17 deputy coroners, helping to ensure a caseload of 171 cases per deputy per year."

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