INDIANAPOLIS — Through a combination of federal funds, the State’s opioid lawsuit settlement and local spending, the 2023 budget for the Marion County Coroners Office is expected to double to more than $10 million.
“At this point this year we are already seeing at least a seven to ten percent increase over last year in death investigation numbers,” said Chief Deputy Coroner Alfie McGinty. “What we’re seeing the most is drug overdose deaths. And while we see a decrease in homicide investigations and in homicide deaths, all other deaths are increasing, including suicides, drug overdose and natural deaths and hit and runs. We’ve seen a pretty drastic increase in motor vehicle hit and run death investigations.”
McGinty said while homicide and COVID death investigations have decreased, the growing number and complexity of fatal drug overdose deaths have put an added strain on her resources and staff.
“We have definitely done a good job of partnering with local law enforcement agencies to investigate those deaths as well so they’re moving forward with prosecution on those cases which then increases our workload,” she said. “When you’re talking about criminal prosecution in cases, whether it’s a homicide or dealing while causing death, there’s still a significant amount of work that has to go into those investigations to make sure that the prosecution can go further in and get to that final resolution of that criminal case.”
City County Councilor Frank Mascari has toured the cramped Coroners facility on West McCarty Street.
“I don’t see how they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s so bad. You are literally stepping around boxes of files,” he said. “They’re overwhelmed with bodies for one reason: people are not retrieving their loved ones. They’re holding bodies because they have no resource to be able to take care of them.”
McGinty said the purchase of a refrigerated trailer to serve as a temporary holding site for bodies has provided additional morgue space.
“We have an overflow rate of about 30 decedents per day that we are unable to store inside of our facility,” she said.
While some of the new funding will go to purchase necessary equipment like a portable X-Ray machine or pay for weekend pathologists to conduct autopsies seven days a week, McGinty said her office is expanding its services to the families who have lost loved ones.
“When you suffer the loss of a loved one, it is like a traumatic brain injury. So we brought on social workers to impact those families to provide resources and to be able to give them information so that they can get mental health treatment that they needed,” she said. “The additional funds that we are getting will go back into the community to provide mental health as well as grieving resources for those that have lost a loved one and making referrals for substance use disorder where we know people who are at these scenes are dealing with substance use disorder where they can possibly get treatment.”
The City is awaiting construction bids on a new Coroners Office/Forensics Services facility to be located near the Community Justice Center in Twin Aire in 2024.